Friday, July 30

"Twelve Angels"

19th century scroll made for Wallatta Sellase. From "Ethiopian Magic Scrolls" by Jaques Mercier 1979

Farmers await WTO deal and more

Ethiopian farmers await WTO deal
Ethiopia would like to take advantage of the fertile soil it has in some parts of the country and its low labour costs by exporting more sugar to Europe.

But the EU's system of quotas and tariffs prevents it from doing so.

More trade might mean this country needing less aid.

But Ethiopians are not holding their breath.

They know rich countries have a long history of unfair economic practices, such as subsidising their agriculture while preaching the benefits of free trade.
Joint Ethiopia-Sudan border force kills 50 militia
A joint Ethiopia-Sudan military force killed 50 militia and captured 80 operating along their common border last week, the Ethiopian Defence Ministry said on Thursday, also accusing Eritrea of training the men.
Ethiopia accuses Sudanese tribe of illegally occupying its territory
Ethiopia has served notice for immediate withdrawal of the armed Sudanese Nuware Lo clan from two large areas bordering with Sudan in south-western Ethiopia, which it accused the clan of illegally occupying since early this year.

In a statement issued Wednesday, the autonomous Gambella Regional State bordering with Sudan, claimed that the Nuware Lo clan had displaced Ethiopians and settled in 17 localities in Akoko Woreda district after illegally crossing the international border.
Oromo not the only ethnic group abused in Ethiopia-A balanced and informative piece based on interviews with members of the various Ethiopian communities of Minnesota.

France pressures all sides of conflict in Darfur
The French foreign minister Michael Barnieh has called following his visit to Darfur district to the west of Sudan to pressuring all sides concerned involved in the conflict taking place there.

The French minister said after talks with President of Chad, Idris Deibi, in Abeichi to the East of Chad in the border area of Darfur, "pressures should be continued so as the government of Khartoum will dismantle the weapons of the militias and the groups. Pressure should be also made on other sides in this conflict in order to return back to the table of negotiations."
France opposes UN Sudan sanctions
"In Darfur, it would be better to help the Sudanese get over the crisis so their country is pacified rather than sanctions which would push them back to their misdeeds of old," junior Foreign Minister Renaud Muselier told French radio.

France led opposition to US moves at the UN over Iraq. As was the case in Iraq, France also has significant oil interests in Sudan.

Mr Muselier also dismissed claims of "ethnic cleansing" or genocide in Darfur.

"I firmly believe it is a civil war and as they are little villages of 30, 40, 50, there is nothing easier than for a few armed horsemen to burn things down, to kill the men and drive out the women," he said.
What would the world do without the moral clarity of French diplomacy? According to Paris 'all sides' need to be pressured in Darfur. Presumably including the victims of genocide. Also, the answer is to help the Sudanese 'pacify' their country because sanctions 'might push them back to their (genocidal?) misdeeds of old.'

The world wide panorama shoot on March 20, 2004 On Saturday, March 20, more than 180 photographers in 40 countries around the world celebrated the Equinox by creating VR panoramas. This site showcases the results of their efforts.

Canadian Pop Quiz on Darfur

Canadians have some unfavorable opinions about the US
a new poll shows a significant number of young Canadians would use "evil" to describe their U.S. neighbours.

In a telephone poll of 500 teens aged 14 to 18, more than 40 per cent of respondents saw the U.S. as an evil global force. Among French-Canadians, that number jumped to 64 per cent.
Maybe it is time for some of that judgment and fury to be directed inwards. A 1999 piece from the Toronto Globe and Mail says this about the genocidal war in southern Sudan targeting Black Christians and animists
(t)he Nuba mountains of southern Sudan, a region long closed to outsiders, is Sudan's new killing fields, where bombs and helicopter gunships have razed villages and deep, blackened craters pock the landscape. The area is a crucial oil field, and working amid the destruction are Canada's Talisman Energy Inc., of Calgary, as well as state oil companies from China and Malaysia
A more complete and current list of the oil companies involved in Sudan is here. Included are the national and corporate financiers of the ongoing southern Sudan and Darfur reigns of terror

Talisman Energy of Canada,
Petronas, the state-owned oil company of Malaysia,
China National Petroleum Carnation (the state-owned oil giant of the People's Republic of China),
TotalFinaElf of France/Belgium,
BP (who provided the critical investment in the PetroChina IPO),
OMV of Austria,
Agip of Italy,
Royal Dutch Shell which owns a refinery in Port Sudan

Canadian companies were among the pioneers in the Sudanese oil business. The deals were signed while Sudan was a recognized state sponsor of terrror and a perpetrator of genocide.

While the US dragged the UN along to bring attention to Darfur Canada was quiet. The US and the UK have made threats of military action against the Sudanese government and its agents.

Surely given the tangle of international finance American and British business is tied up in the above corporate rogue's gallery (BP is British). At least they are willing to take a stand even if it means losing business and the possible risk of sending their military on a humanitarian mission.

What will Canada do?
A)Blame the evil Americans
B)Pump oil while feeling morally superior to those evil cowboy Americans
C)Quietly vote along with the EU and the US on the issue of sanctions but do nothing else
D)Pump even more oil sure ... but with nuance and sophistication
E)all of the above
If you chose E. you will probably be right

Canada is a lovely country as are her people. Those Darfur refugees lucky enough to make it to Canada will probably find a welcoming and inclusive haven. Expecting Canada to take a risk to help prevent them from being refugees to begin with is more of a problem. Don't look for the other countries sharing the oil business in Sudan to do much either way.

Thursday, July 29

'Zenawinomics' and the Aztec gods

Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s 2003/4 performance report to the House of Peoples’ Representatives was presented on the 9th of July 2004. Here is the money quote
Proceeding from the efforts of the peasant and the pastoralist and by encouraging the private sector, satisfactory results have been achieved from the development activities in 1996 (Ethiopic Calendar). Figures as confirmed by the latest information, our economy has registered a growth rate of 11.6% over the current year. The contribution of agriculture to this growth has been the highest with 18.9%, industry 6.9%, distribution 7.6%, other services 6.3%. Export figures for the past 11 months indicate a possible export growth of 13%. Over the following year we shall strive to achieve a comparable growth by carrying out activities described earlier in this report. We shall make a special effort towards a growth rate of 10-13% for the economy as a whole and an export growth of over 30%.
This progress is far greater than satisfactory! It would justify optimism worthy of the early Asian Tiger economies. The formula of Zenawinomics described as
'food-security plus poverty reduction, equals rapid economic growth'
seems to be working! Well ... let's take a look at this July 12 article from IRIN discussing the economic aspects of the report "Unprecedented economic and agricultural growth reported for 2003/2004" It adds some crucial information
Agriculture is vital to Ethiopia’s achieving its annual $6.7 billion gross domestic product, and more than 80 percent of its 70 million people work in that sector.

The figures Meles gave are particularly significant since a severe drought brought about a 25-percent drop in harvests in 2002/2003, while the economy experienced negative growth. The country's extreme dependence on rain-fed agriculture results in fluctuating and volatile growth rates, which, some analysts argue, exacerbate deep-rooted poverty.
Apparently there is some serious spin going on ...

In 2002/2003 there was a 25 percent drop in harvests.

In 2003/2004 there was a 20 percent gain in harvests

Therefore, overall the agricultural sector is doing worse then than it was in the 2001/2002 period. Because of the inherent dependence on rain fed agriculture it seems that was is being reported is simply a good year for rainfall.

Now take a look at this 2003 report about Ethiopian Food Security from the Food Early Warning Systems Network

During the current year, with the exception of northern half of the country, above normal rainfall has reportedly continued in almost all crop dependent areas through November. As a result, most cereal crops should produce normal yields.
Isn't that good rainfall in the south at the very core of the positive spin in the report to Parliament?

How about the overall growth rates? Why don't we take another look at the IRIN story
The country's extreme dependence on rain-fed agriculture results in fluctuating and volatile growth rates, which, some analysts argue, exacerbate deep-rooted poverty.
The economy in all of its aspects is so dependent on rainfall that it is described in its entirety as volatile. Sadly, the rains may not come this year because they have not come so many years in the past.

Zenawinomics could just as well depend on state mandated prayers to Tlaloc, the Aztec god of rain

From "Aztec Gods"

Tlaloc would certainly do as much good and probably less harm than the government's current land and agricultural policies. The tragic lack of rational planning and policy is an ongoing theme for ethiopundit.

Wednesday, July 28

Senator Obama and more

A bright spot in the political firmament on display at the Boston Globe in this article on the next Senator from Illinois In Obama, Democrats see their future

A look at the terror issue and election 2004 from the Belmont Club in this post Boston and New York

Mostly Africa finds something curious on HIV/AIDS: say what ...

From the BBC the world begins to move on the Darfur crisis Europe calls for Sudan sanctions

Welcome additions to the regular media from Chrenkoff in his series on Afghanistan and Iraq Good news from Afghanistan, Part 2

The Head Heeb on potentially good news from Uganda

Tuesday, July 27

Press Freedom under threat

Article 19 is the name of the Global Campaign for Free Expression. It is
"named after Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we work worldwide to combat censorship by promoting freedom of expression and access to official information."
The report makes several recommendations for improving press freedom in the country, including scrapping a draft press law that would give the government greater control over journalists and private media outlets. IPI says there needs to be a "complete transformation" of the way the government views the media if the country is to develop as a democracy.

ARTICLE 19 says the draft press law contains provisions that fail to meet international standards on free expression. In a legal analysis, the organisation says the proposed law would allow authorities to decide who can practice journalism and it carries harsh penalties, including jail terms of up to five years, for those who violate the law. The law also would allow for the creation of a state-controlled Press Council that would have the power to establish and enforce a code of ethics.
The International Press Institute has the full report here. Below are some excerpts

Instead of making ministers, civil servants or spokespersons available to the media, or holding inclusive press conferences, the government has often chosen to remain silent or been deliberately unhelpful in providing much needed information.

This has often prevented journalists from fully reporting on issues and created tensions. As a result, the relationship between the two sides can at best be described as lacking in trust.

If some junior members of government – working in conjunction with police officers and the courts – believe that it is possible to achieve promotion through the punishment of journalists, senior ministers need to work harder at disabusing them of this belief. The question arises whether the ministers would like to stop this practice. The punitive provision in the DPL (Draft Press Law) would appear to suggest otherwise.

Often such journalists face imprisonment for outdated charges stemming from many years ago. Although IPI does not agree with the imprisonment of journalists, the failure to administer justice swiftly has greatly increased the pressures on the media profession. This is because it creates uncertainty and fear over charges that have yet to be administered by the courts.

The private media also appear to be paying the price for the absence of a genuine parliamentary opposition in Ethiopia. While there are opponents of the present government in parliament, much of the power resides in the council of ministers.

this has led to the widespread perception in the government that the media represent the genuine opposition and are, therefore, to be treated accordingly. For this reason the private media are under constant pressure from government ministers who accuse them of exhibiting bias. These pressures could be alleviated if a genuine opposition were allowed to form, thus freeing the private media from its perceived position of opposition to the government.

A final consideration, this time for the government, is the impact of the Draft Press Law (DPL)-- likely to be passed in late 2004 -- on training. IPI believes that the introduction of the law will increase the number of journalists prosecuted for their writing, due to the introduction of a raft of unnecessary bureaucratic rules, and, as such, will hinder future training programmes. For this reason, the government needs to reflect on whether its intention is to punish journalists or to improve the standards of journalism.

In summation, the DPL is an expression of the government’s view that the private media cannot be trusted to regulate itself and that they represent a danger to the stability of the country. State journalists – who are likely to be shielded from the DPL’s impact – and ministers, expressed this opinion on a number of occasions. In numerous meetings officials raised the spectre of Rwanda while expressing the view that Ethiopia could face the same problems, namely, a private media inciting hatred and fomenting genocide.

IPI believes that the government’s use of the Rwandan genocide to justify the DPL and, therefore, maintain control of the media is not an appropriate comparison and is unnecessary. Indeed, in all probability, it has been utilised to mask the real reason, which is to maintain the present status quo in the country. It has been often said that he who controls the messenger controls the message and nowhere is this truer than in Ethiopia.

IPI is convinced that the Ethiopian government stands at an important crossroads in its relationship with the media. Down one road lies the opportunity, through the press law, to exert greater control over journalists, the private media and, indeed, what is said and thought in the country; while, down the other road, lies an opportunity to form a relationship with the media that not only encourages and supports freedom of expression but also enhances the work of the present government in so many other areas of democracy in Ethiopia. The present challenge for the government is deciding which path to choose.

China shows the way

This cat catches mice. Source.

History provides a clear pass out of the permanent crisis manufactured by policies of state ownership of land. Kate Xiao Zhou penned an important book on this subject in 1996 titled “How the Farmers Changed China: Power of the People”. According to a reviewer

The author makes the persuasive case that it was the farmers that were responsible for the reform process that began in 1978, and it is they that have been the primary force behind the enormous success of the reforms.

Farmers were given the land in the late 1940s and early 1950s in recognition of their support for the Communist Party. But they never received titles and, by 1958, all their productive property and all the land had been socialized, without any compensation. The immediate incidence of the great famine that cost at least 30 million lives got the communes off to a bad start.

The state took over most of the functions that had traditionally been the province of the family.

When land was assigned to households, output increased greatly and the news spread rapidly.

There are excellent discussions of the development of markets--how once the restraints on market activities were removed, farmers seized the opportunities and virtually transformed the marketing of food. The socialized system of food distribution was so inefficient and rigid that farmers have been able to largely replace it, much to their and the consumers' benefit.
One popular reason for the state control of land in Ethiopia is the prevention of mass migration to the cities. Apparently gullible farmers will sign away their land for a song to 'greedy capitalists' and end up begging in the cities. Zhou and the reviewer point out that this infantiliazation of the people and criminalization of reasonable individual decisions was itself the problem.

The next chapter discusses the controls over migration--the hukou system under which an individual is registered at the place of birth and approval must be obtained for moving to another place. This system was designed primarily to stop "mindless" migration to the cities. With the abolition of the communes, the control the government had over the lives of rural people was sharply reduced and the enforcement of the hukou system has become much more difficult. There is now a large, though unknown, number of rural people illegally or semi-legally living in cities, generally performing the dirty, difficult and dangerous jobs urban residents are unwilling to accept. But even those jobs provide much higher incomes than farming. One of the important results of the control of migration has been to protect the large urban-rural difference in income--urban income is at least three times higher than rural income, even now that millions of nonfarm jobs in the country side have developed. Mao won the revolution, primarily due to the efforts of rural people, but he soon forgot those responsible for his victory.
Waiting for rain and accepting suffering as a tradition is no policy. Give the people land and trust them. It is their country after all.

Monday, July 26

Mecha Tulema Deja Vu all over again and more

1966 - Mecha Tulema Oromo organization outlawed by the late Emperor's government for 'terrorist' attack in movie theatre .
2004 - EPRDF (ruling party) revokes Mecha Tulema registration license: this time the alleged bombing occured at the University.
There have been other recent attempts to defame this Oromo organization that ring hollow to us. It is likely that they are not subservient enough to the powers that be. From Exchange News Network

From Mostly Africa - Sudan gets new fighter jets

Outsourcing comes to Africa. At network

No one takes care of war memorials and cemeteries like the British do. The Commonwealth War Graves cemetery in Addis is an immaculate place of hushed dignity. See Commonwealth War Graves at Gulele Cemetary and Addis Ababa War Cemetery

Fine Addis Ababa City Map from Selamta. It is at least 25 years out of date now ... and Addis has how many million people now?

Capital The Paper that Promotes Free Enterprise. An idea whose time has certainly come.

Insultingly Stupid Movie Physics: if you've ever wondered.

Friday, July 23

Remembering H.I.M.

"Throughout history, it has been the inaction of those who could have acted; the indifference of those who should have known better; the silence of the voice of justice when it mattered most; that has made it possible for evil to triumph."
Emperor Haile Selassie I
(Tafari Makonnen)
July 23, 1892 - August 27 1975

It is to his eternal credit that while the Emperor lived, judgment of progress and of public virtue was made in comparison to an ideal. The core sense of optimism felt then was intense in a way that it is impossible to imagine now.

It was actually expected that Ethiopia would improve year after year. When Haile Selassie’s rule failed in any way it was considered unforgivable, even criminal. Reality seldom intruded on the varied imaginings and plans of what could be easily in hand only if the Emperor were not in the way.

In the three decades since he did get out of the way Ethiopians have learned to expect far less - not only of the future but of the present. Adjusted for inflation per capita GNP is less than it was in 1973. The growth and economic changes of the 1960s and early 1970s have yet to be matched. Coffee remains the source of most foreign exchange and it earns progressively less income. Because of secession and erosion there is far less land now for more than twice as many people to live on.

Discussions of land reform with no reform were rightly condemned during Haile Selassie’s rule. The solution was not Mengistu’s confiscation of all land and Meles’s ongoing grasp of every square meter. They have left most Ethiopians as eternal serfs to their government whose power is thus assured. Land reform is no longer even an issue. The very idea of empowering peasant farmers and of self sufficiency in food has been abandoned beyond press releases and unworkable schemes.

The Emperor left Ethiopia during the Italian occupation and the eventually successful resistance. He would not have served his people better by capture or by death in battle. His actions within the international system meant that Ethiopia’s freedom and unity were not abandoned as the Second World War was won and its aftermath shaped.

He was by no means a democratic ruler. Neither was he a common dictator. He was a traditional ruler in an impatient age. Eventually he stretched the bounds of that rule to their snapping point by encouraging the modernizing forces that he eventually allowed to replace him.

The tradition that he represented was vital and its loss should be mourned. Without it Ethiopia lost her bearings and became lost in a miasma of defunct ideology. Instead of social and political reform that was well underway a radical break was made that still haunts the country with its echoing slogans, wars, broken lives and failed policies.

We must imagine that he saw the forces that rose up in 1974 as somehow legitimate or natural expressions of dissent. Maybe he agreed that the slings and arrows directed toward his government were deserved.

The Wello famine, its cover-up and the resultant shame surely contributed to the lassitude that allowed Ethiopia to be dragged into an era of darkness. Possibly he thought it would all just go on as before with a cabinet shuffle or by land grants to selected rebels.

How else can anyone explain a government of millions with roots stretching back three thousand years ... simply fading away? That was the real tragedy of his reign. The country’s institutions and thoughts raced ahead of the Emperor and he did not prepare for a political future of stable government and more rapid democratization.

Neither did he fight to guarantee what had been so far achieved at such cost by his people. The young Tafari Makonnen who took the throne and embarked on the hazardous journey of modernization would surely not have made that mistake.

What followed him is a seemingly endless nightmare of national turmoil and suffering that may reach its crescendo in ethnic politics. The traditional absolutes of God, Emperor and Country were abandoned in a fevered search, not for solutions, but for new absolutes to answer every question of existence.

The hard earned optimism in the country and in the future was hijacked by the promise of salvation in a new trinity of Marx, Engels and Lenin. The high priests of the new religion did not discover the keys to heaven but did find a glib catechism that justified their own rule and any crime in the pursuit of power. Traditional authoritarian government was far less jealous and brutal towards opposition than the actual or nascent totalitarianism represented by the subsequent occupants of the Menelik Palace.

If we remember Haile Selassie it should be in sober appreciation of his humanity and achievements. The poor service done to his memory and to the memory of a generation of committed patriots who served under him symbolize a great loss for Ethiopia that many are only now realizing.

After every consideration it is clear that Emperor Haile Selassie left his country in far better shape than he found her. That is tribute enough for any leader. He served his people most in giving them a vision of what Ethiopia could rise to during the most promising and bloody century mankind has ever known.

Hopefully his new heirs can see the future in terms of the lessons of the past. The promise of the end of Mengistu's rule is even now being lost. It is not too late.

Intra-African Trade and Jared Diamond

Africa from orbit

The BBC on Intra-Africa trade- it 'is too low'.

The study by the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) blames the continuing low level of trade on poor transport links among African countries.

Also regional transport costs need to be consolidated. Such costs are prohibitive because many national road, air and rail networks remain unconnected within Africa.

As a result the report says, for example, that shipping a car from Japan to Abidjan in Ivory Coast costs $1,500 (£806). But shipping a car from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to Abidjan would cost $5,000,(£2,698).
The absence of intra-African trade links represents a major loss of potential wealth because valuable 'local' markets are never developed.

One familiar and compelling reason for this situation is the legacy of colonialism and slavery. Trade when it developed was for the benefit of outside powers in Europe, the Americas and Arabia. But why did this happen to begin with?

The primary reason is probably geography. Africa has a dearth of natural harbors and navigable rivers compared to the other continents. In addition internal topographic obstacles and a diversity of climactic zones make contact within Africa much more hazardous in the past and expensive today than across any other continent. Even the continent's north-south orientation causes numerous barriers of climate and ecology that prevent movement.

This example of the importance of geography and other often ignored factors of human development reminds us of one of our favorite books "Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies" by Jared Diamond

In this "artful, informative, and delightful" (William H. McNeill, New York Review of Books) book, Jared Diamond convincingly argues that geographical and environmental factors shaped the modern world... A major advance in our understanding of human societies, "Guns, Germs, and Steel" chronicles the way that the modern world came to be and stunningly dismantles racially based theories of human history. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, the Phi Beta Kappa Award in Science, the Rhone-Poulenc Prize, and the Commonwealth club of California's Gold Medal.
This book is a must read.

Thursday, July 22

The Greatest Story Ever Mistold

Why not here?
After 72 years of communism, Russia is once again a grain Ethiopia food insecurity as policy

David Boaz, the executive vice president of the Cato Institute wrote the article "The Greatest Story Ever Mistold" about a recent Wall Street Journal report. Titled in part "New Farm Powers Sow the Seeds Of America's Agricultural Woes", (no link available) the WSJ article detailed changes in the worldwide food market while noting potential threats to the American pre-eminence as a producer of wheat. Mr. Boaz felt that the positive implications of the changes and of the article were being ignored. Here are some of the points he made

This article is the latest chapter in the greatest story ever told: the struggle to produce enough food. From time immemorial, humans have endured back-breaking labor just to get enough to live on. Starvation was a constant threat. Now, thanks to free trade, free markets, and the green revolution, starvation is becoming a thing of the past. The world can support six billion people.

Part of the problem is the misguided notion of trade as a competition, or even a war. Note the terms like "economic clout," "wheat powerhouse," "economic might." But trade is not a zero-sum game. Everybody wins when more goods are produced. The story of economic progress is the tendency toward increasing specialization and division of labor.

China, in a drive for self-sufficiency, has become the world's top wheat producer and is nurturing a sophisticated biotechnology program. India, a land long-associated with hunger, became an important exporter three years ago when it released part of its huge wheat reserves onto the world market.

And Russia! After 72 years of communism, Russia (along with its former internal colonies) is once again a grain exporter. We hear lots of bad news out of Moscow these days, as President Vladimir Putin arrests and intimidates political opponents and journalists. But this news probably matters more to the Russian people. There's food aplenty, and you don't have to stand in line for it. And why? A newly privatized Russian farmer tells the Journal:

"Freedom," he says, inhaling deeply on a cool spring day. "You're working for yourself."

(S)tarting with Deng Xiaoping's reforms after the death of Mao, Chinese agricultural production soared -- so much so that peasants began leaving the farms, going to the cities, looking for jobs, and setting up enterprises. Despite his Communist Party years, Deng may have done more good for more people than anybody else in history. Thanks to his reforms, over a billion people can now not only feed themselves but export food and shift labor to more productive uses.

The positive-sum character of trade is the very foundation of the liberal world order, the underpinning of expanding trade, international harmony, and peace. If one country's success was another's woe, then the socialists and nationalists would be right: World trade would be a war of all against all. Thankfully, they're wrong. The growing productivity of China, Russia, and India is wonderful news for their two billion citizens and good news for everyone else in the world economy as well.
Througout the Soviet and Maoist periods in Russia (and her satellites) and in China, food insecurity and even famine were the normal state of affairs. Some Soviet agriculture reforms after a disastrous harvest in 1963
Prices paid for the procurement of agricultural products have been raised, restrictions on the use of private plots liberalized, taxes reduced' and pensions and cash payments in advance of the harvest authorized for the agricultural population.

Such measures have given the kolkhozniki new incentives to supply Russian towns with the vegetables, fruit, meat, butter. and eggs needed to feed the working population. The productivity of Russian agriculture, however, remains on a low level in comparison with that of many other countries and requires an agricultural labor force six times larger than that of the United States to produce a smaller total agricultural output. Furthermore, much of this output comes from private plots, which in 1964 accounted for 3% of the area under cultivation but produced more than 40% of the milk and meat output, 60% of the potato crop, and 73% of the egg production.
The Soviet system clearly appreciated the role that the even minimal enfranchisement could play in increasing production. They turned to it in 1963 just as Lenin did with capitalism in the form of the NEP (New Economic Policy) to save his infant revolution.

The inherent contradictions of their own Marxist - Leninist - Stalinist system forced them to make a choice. Reform the system or let millions starve. Stalin made the latter choice and even encouraged starvation as policy. His heirs tinkered with reform because genocide was no longer an option, even for them.

To feed itself the Soviet Union had to become dependent not only on the profit motive of its farmers but in the end on grain imports from the West. Both of these solutions were bitter pills to swallow for the Soviet leaders because quite clearly - communism wasn't working.

They stuck with it though because the purity of communism wasn't at issue. Dicatorial power was their alpha and omega. Communism was important to them because it guaranteed their power while justifying it as effectively as a Medieval lord tortured his people with a sense of divine right.

Why is this important today? We all generally accept that knowing history will help prevent us from repeating it. More to the point, there are 70 million long suffering Ethiopians living under a variation of the Soviet system today.

Ethiopians live with food insecurity so that their rulers won't experience political insecurity.

Wednesday, July 21

Ethiopia regains piece of heritage from a Scottish dining room

Ethiopia regains piece of heritage from a Scottish dining room - The Herald

It once hung in the mountain fortress of an Ethiopian emperor, but somehow found its way to the wall of a dining room in Glasgow.

The handing back of the shield to Africa's oldest independent country is a boost for a group campaigning for the return of treasures looted when soldiers stormed the fortress of Emperor Tewodros II at Maqdala in 1868 to avenge the jailing of British citizens.

The shield was among loot, including gold crowns and more than 1000 sacred manuscripts, plundered from the fortress where Emperor Tewodros killed himself rather than fall into British hands.
Dr. Richard Pankhurst of The Institute of Ethiopian Studies wrote the this account of the Battle at Maqdala and its aftermath. AFROMET - The Association for the Return of The Maqdala Ethiopian Treasures - "is an international organisation dedicated to retrieving priceless treasures looted during the British invasion of the country in 1867-8."

The Political Compass

Here is an interesting site called the The Political Compass. According to the site
There's abundant evidence for the need of (the Political Compass). The old one-dimensional categories of 'right' and 'left' , established for the seating arrangement of the French National Assembly of 1789, are overly simplistic for today's complex political landscape. For example, who are the 'conservatives' in today's Russia? Are they the unreconstructed Stalinists, or the reformers who have adopted the right-wing views of conservatives like Margaret Thatcher ?

On the standard left-right scale, how do you distinguish leftists like Stalin and Gandhi? It's not sufficient to say that Stalin was simply more left than Gandhi. There are fundamental political differences between them that the old categories on their own can't explain. Similarly, we generally describe social reactionaries as 'right-wingers', yet that leaves left-wing reactionaries like Robert Mugabe and Pol Pot off the hook.
The test adds new dimension to the usual left and right to arrive at more nuanced political definitions. Why not take the test?

Tuesday, July 20

let the ferenjis feed 'em

Refugees at home. Source. food security is for foreigners to worry about, bad policies are for foreigners to fix

Professor Jeffrey Sachs, the special adviser to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on the Millennium Development Goals stated of Ethiopia that

"This is a country living right on the edge"
He also was critical of the West noting that the

"they are providing 100 times more for the emergency than for prevention," he said. "If all you give is food aid, you will be giving it forever." He warned that "terrible things" could happen both in Ethiopia and the region if the poverty crisis were not tackled.
Criticism of the West is appropriate but not for the reason stated by Sachs.

The West has allowed the government to totally abdicate responsibility for its own people. The West, particularly the U.S., and international agencies willingly provide food aid but leave alone a government that does not ensure pro-agricultural policies are implemented to begin with.

For example, in Ethiopia there is no right to private ownership of land.

Ethiopia's own government values political control and guarantees of its own survival over liberalization of the economy and the people from intrusive state controls.

So when foreign pressure is tried how does the Ethiopian Government respond? Take a look at the The San Francisco Chronicle - Ethiopia's empty promise: Rushed resettlement leads to hunger and death it details another tragic chapter in this story.
Under pressure from international donors tired of giving millions of dollars in food aid to help Ethiopians at risk of starvation, the Ethiopian government came up with a quick fix -- move them.

Two million of them.

The government of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi insisted the program is voluntary and said settlers are given land, food, safe water, grain mills, health care, schools and roads as incentives to relocate.

Last year, 20 years after a million Ethiopians died in a famine that caught the attention of the world, the U.N. World Food Program declared 13 million Ethiopians in danger of starvation. This year, the rains have been a little better, but 7 million are still near starvation.

The government asserted in January that resettled farmers achieved food self-sufficiency in the first year of the program, producing a surplus in the first harvest. But the World Bank, the U.N. mission in the country and other organizations, including Doctors Without Borders, have criticized the government's management of the resettlement program, saying that rather than combat famine, the hasty exodus has led to a humanitarian crisis in many areas.

There is a well-established international aid system in this nation of 70 million, but Desalegn Rahmato, director of the Ethiopian Forum for Social Studies, said, "The government is reluctant to ask for food aid, because this would prove the failure of the resettlement program."
The West is like a third party enabler in an abusive relationship. The essential message is "do what ever you want, just give me a chance to feed your people". Well, someone has to see that the people are fed and it sure ain't the Ethiopian government.

Genocide Watchwas deeply worried about the disastrous resettlement story back in March: "Ethiopia to shift a million people from drought-hit areas" .

Ethiopia has begun a resettlement programme which aims to move up to a million people away from the country's drought-stricken and over-worked central highlands to more fertile regions.

Tens of thousands of families are to be moved before the rains come in May as the result of a pilot project last year, which the government says resulted in improved harvests.

Critics say the lands available for resettlement - mainly along Ethiopia's border with Sudan - are in areas notorious for diseases including malaria and kala azar or visceral leishmaniasis, a potentially fatal disease transmitted by sandflies.

Attempts to resettle farmers are not new in Ethiopia but this is the biggest relocation scheme in the country's history.

Good news from Iraq and more

At Chrenkoff's you will find the sixth instalment of "Good news from Iraq". This series is a welcome antidote for the customary drumbeat of bad news in most of the media.

Black Ships and Samurai is an absorbing site about Japan's opening to the West. Commodore Perry took a squadron of the U.S. Navy and dropped anchor in Edo (Tokyo) Bay in 1853 demanding that Japan open her ports to trade.

Creation of the O.A.U. (Organization of African Unity) is a fantastic look at the more recent past of Africa in general and Ethiopia in particular.

The Cyber-USSR. is interesting, the mission statement says it all
"Due to events too painful even to think about, the earthly USSR no longer exists. Nevertheless, wherever progressive people meet, there will remain the USSR of our fond aspirations, a realm where no kulak goes un-liquidated, no five-year-plan goes un-overfulfilled, and no Great Leader and Teacher goes un-venerated. This land of our dreams exists on the Internet, the Cyber-USSR"

Ethiopia's Japanizers

Lij Araya Abeba & Co. in Japan circa 1934

Front row, right to left: Lij Araya Abeba, His Excellency Heruy, Lij Tafari, and the interpreter, Daba Birru. On the back row are Mr. and Mrs. Sumioka. Picture taken from Heruy’s Dai Nihon.

In the Selected Annual Proceedings of the Florida Conference of Historians for 2004, a fascinating paper was presented by Professor J. Calvitt Clarke III. Titled "Seeking A Model For Modernization: Ethiopia's Japanizer's" it is a window into an almost forgotten Ethiopia.

The story begins after the 1896 victory over Italy at Adwa in the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia. If you don't know much about this battle Professor Donald Levine outlines its historical significance in his article "The Battle of Adwa as a "Historic" Event". Ethiopian Filmmaker Haile Gerima made an exceptional documentary about the battle; "Adwa: An African Victory" in 2000.

Some excerpts from Professor Clarke on the Japanizers

In the early twentieth century, these foreign-educated Ethiopians (the Japanizers) generally sought positions at court, and many of them refused to share the complacency of their countrymen after Ethiopia’s military victory over Italy at Adwa in 1896.

The term (Japanizers) highlighted the impact of Japan’s Meiji transformation on Ethiopia’s intellectuals. Japan’s dramatic metamorphosis by the end of the nineteenth century from a feudal society—like Ethiopia’s—into an industrial power attracted them. For these young, educated Ethiopians, Japanization was a means to an end—to solve the problem of underdevelopment. Japan’s rapid modernization, after all, had guaranteed its peace, prosperity, and independence, while Ethiopia’s continued backwardness threatened its very survival.

Blattengeta Heruy Welde Sellase (1878-1939)

Perhaps the most influential of the Japanizers in Ethiopia was Heruy Welde Sellassie.

In 1932 after an official visit to Japan, he published Mahidere Birhan: Hagre Japan [The Document of Japan]...Of the Japanizers, he most elaborately compared Ethiopia and Japan. Both had been ruled by long and uninterrupted founding dynasties: Hirohito was the 124th monarch of the Jimu dynasty while Hayle Sellase was the 126th ruler of the Solomonic dynasty. He compared Emperor Menilek to the Meiji. In the entire world, only Ethiopia and Japan had preserved that long the title of "emperor" to designate the chief of state.

Both countries had experienced roving capitals in their histories. He compared the Tokugawa Shogunate to the Zamana Masafent: the only difference was that while the overlordship of the Yajju lords had been confined to Bagemder, while the Tokugawa exercised authority over all of Japan. The manners of the two peoples were similar. Heruy went on to conclude that, despite these similarities, the two countries had long lived in mutual ignorance of one another—much as do the two eyes of one person. Just as a mirror helps one eye to see the other, so too his visit to Japan had brought mutual awareness between the two countries.

Bajerond Takle-Hawaryat Takla-Maryam and the Constitution of 1931

Ethiopia’s Constitution of 1931, modeled on Japan’s Meiji Constitution of 1889, best illustrates Ethiopia’s desire to follow in Japan’s progressive footsteps.

With only a couple of exceptions, when comparing the 1889 Japanese constitution and the 1931 Ethiopian constitution, even the chapter divisions were identical, and in both cases, the guarantees of civil liberties were constrained by nullifiers such as, "within the limits provided for by the law" or "except in cases provided for in the law."

Araya Abeba

A figure of underestimated importance in the Japanizer movement was Araya Abeba, a member of Hayle Sellase’s family. If he is remembered at all today, it is for his proposed marriage with a Japanese, Kuroda Masako, a subject of great mirth and greater fear among many European observers. A handsome young man in the 1930s, in truth he played an important part in Ethiopia’s relations with Japan, and he gives every appearance of being groomed for greater things until the Italo-Ethiopian War intervened.

By the first half of the 1930s, Japan and Ethiopia were drawing closer together to the acute concern of all of Africa’s colonial powers, most especially Italy.

Teferi Makonnen (Hayle Sellase) (1892-1975))

The crucial force behind Ethiopia’s desire to use Japan as a model was the emperor himself. His father, Ras Makonnen, had studied foreign military literature, and Russia’s defeat by the Japanese Navy at Tsushima in 1905—following as it did in Ethiopia’s footsteps by defeating a European power—surely electrified him. By 1906 when Ras Makonnen died, the thirteen year-old Teferi apparently had already developed a mental blueprint for his goal. An essential part of it was to draw upon the Japanese model, that other empire, which had proved that a non-European nation could embrace modern civilization and stand culturally and technically on par with European countries.
Professor Clarke goes into great detail about Ethiopian history and her relations with the United States and the European imperialist powers of the time. The many historical convergences and divergences with Japan are also detailed.

It all makes for fascinating reading but we are delighted that this alliance did not pan out. Contemplating an Ethiopia morally bankrupted by such an alliance in the Second World War is simply too bloody awful to imagine. We have to make moral judgements about alternative history as much as we have to do about history.

The time for close relations with Japan and for learning lessons is right now.

Monday, July 19

Marx Reloaded (not Groucho)

"Who are you going to believe, me or your own eyes?"
Groucho Marx

"The theory of the Communists may be summed up in the single sentence: Abolition of private property."
Karl Marx

"I have never heard of any convincing reason as to why we should privatize land”
Meles Zenawi

it is an "inappropriate and grave mistake" the attempt by some groups to liken revolutionary democracy (the state ideology of the Ethiopian ruling party) with communism"
Ethiopian Ruling Party Official

The Right to Property is the concern of Article 40 of the Ethiopian Constitution.

The regular Dictionary definition of property is A. Something owned; a possession. B. A piece of real estate. C. Something tangible or intangible to which its owner has legal title. D. Possessions considered as a group.

Here we are concerned with part B. Land. The Sub-Articles of Article 40 relevant to actual ownership of land are below.

(1) Every Ethiopian citizen has the right to the ownership of private property. Unless prescribed otherwise by law on account of public interest, this right shall include the right to acquire, to use and, in a manner compatible with the rights of other citizens, to dispose of such property by sale or bequest or to transfer it otherwise.
Great! people have the right to own property! So what's the problem?
(2) "Private property", for the purpose of this article, shall mean any tangible or intangible product which has value and is produced by the labour, creativity, enterprise or capital of an individual citizen, associations which enjoy juridical personality under the law, or in appropriate circumstances, by communities specifically empowered by law to own property in common.
Well, own any kind of property except for land... The bit about property having to be produced sounds a bit off as well...
(3) The right to ownership of rural and urban land, as well as of all natural resources, is exclusively vested in the State and in the peoples of Ethiopia. Land is a common property of the Nations, Nationalities and Peoples of Ethiopia and shall not be subject to sale or to other means of exchange.
Oh, the State owns all land.

Interestingly, the concept that
The state is the means whereby the ruling class forcibly maintains its rule over the other classes
is one of the core ideas of Karl Marx

Ownership of land and the disenfranchisement of those on the land is, of course, a familiar means of exerting control. This is true across the span of time and the globe from the American frontier to feudal Europe and onto Roman latifunda.

State ownership is a classic characteristic of social orders inspired by Karl Marx and Lenin. Socialism may often have a variety of gray areas with the land issue. However, Soviet and Maoist (pre-Deng) style Communism is clearly reflected in Article 40; it utterly rejects any form of private ownership of land.

By the way, the names of Karl Marx and Lenin as well as the term 'Communism' are used here not to be pejorative but to be descriptive. They had some very interesting things to say and the latter is a worthy topic of discussion. Sadly, it is our observation that societies in which their names and ideology are particularly valued do share some unappealing characteristics; we simply see that they are usually not democratic nor prosperous.

The Ethiopian government calls its economic and social program 'Revolutionary Democracy'. Officials affirm that Ethiopia's
economic objective remains to be the establishment of a capitalist economic system.
It seems this is to be done without some of the basic prerequisites of a capitalist economic system. Frankly, the term 'Revolutionary Democracy' when Googled is not inspiring when used in the context of establishing a capitalist economic system - more on this in the future.

In our opinion the suffocating dead weight of the first three sub-articles largely negates the rest of Article 40 but to be fair please go ahead and read them. We doubt that the rest of Article 40 would mean much for 'the little guy' when voting the wrong way or challenging authority. Remember, confiscation is only a bureaucrat's whim away.

One last quote for the road
"Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read."
If you guessed Groucho you are correct!

Air Force of 1933

One of six Imperial Ethiopian Potez 25 biplanes

Ethiopia began the formation of a small air arm in 1929, with the delivery of a Potez 25 A2 to the capital Addis Ababa on 18 August 1929. A Junkers W 33c followed on 5 September.

A few transport aircraft were also acquired during 1934-35 for ambulance work. The Air Force was commanded by a French pilot, Andre Maillet, who delivered the first Potez. He was succeeded by another Frenchman, Paul Corriger, who remained until the Italian conquest of Ethiopia in 1935, when the Imperial Ethiopian Air Force ceased to exist.

A new Imperial Air Force was created with American and British assistance in 1946, after the liberation of Ethiopia from Italian occupation.
This image is from Insignia Magazine. The plane pictured is a Potez 25 A2 Serial no. 3; the Nesre Makonnen (Prince Makonnen), Addis Ababa, 1933. Here is more on the Potez 25 a
light attack, army co-operation and tactical reconnaissance warplane. (Armament) included ... one forward-firing machine gun in the forward fuselage with synchronization equipment to fire through the propeller disc, and two rearward-firing machine guns in the rear cockpit ... (it could carry) four 50 kg (110 lb) bombs.
Several Ethiopian and foreign accounts of the 1930s note the Potez primarily for how slow it was relative to other aircraft worldwide and in the Ethiopian inventory. Clearly, any biplane on the eve of the Second World War was obsolete and the Potez had already been in Ethiopian service since 1924.

In his book "Ethiopia at Bay: A Personal Account of the Haile Sellassie Years" (no link available) John H. Spencer, a long time American advisor to the former Emperor describes a flight to the 1936 warzone at Dessie
I flew there on January 16 along with the British Military Attache, Major Holt, in a cabin single engine Potez, (with canvas fuselage and wooden frame) piloted by Michka Babichef, another kilis [person of mixed race], the son of a White Russian father and Ethiopian mother. Although the distance was only slightly more than 160 miles, the flight took an hour and a half.
The Ethiopian Army field headquarters was there and Spencer goes on to describe a bombing raid by the Italians during which the Emperor mans an anti-aircraft gun.

Michka Babichef in the cockpit from MediaEthiopia. The second licensed Ethiopian pilot was Asfaw Ali.

According to People of the Plow: An Agricultural History of Ethiopia, 1800-1990 by James McCann, Babichef senior was a White Russian (a term used to distinguish non-Bolshevik or pre-Communist era Russians) confidant of the former Emperor Menelik who was given the military / noble title of Qagnazmach.

Near the present day city of Bishoftu, (which was to become the HQ for the Ethiopian Air Force in later years) he established an early example of commerical agricultural enterprises on lands he had irrigated and later distributed to his workers.

Future posts will cover the story of two African American pilots who volunteered to fly with the Ethiopian Air Force at the time of the Italian invasion and a brief of the Italian Air Force of the time.

Thursday, July 15

Ecological Footprints

The Wildlife Conservation Society has a fascinating map showing the Human Footprint on our world by showing population densities. The accompanying
Analysis of the human footprint map indicates that 83% of the land's surface is influenced by one or more of the following factors: human population density greater than 1 person per square kilometer, within 15 km of a road or major river, occupied by urban or agricultural land uses, within 2 km of a settlement or a railway, and/or producing enough light to be visible regularly to a satellite at night. 98% of the areas where it is possible to grow rice, wheat or maize (according to FAO estimates) are similarly influenced. However human influence is not inevitably negative impact -- in fact conservation organizations, including the Wildlife Conservation Society, have shown remarkable solutions that allow people and wildlife to co-exist. Nature is often resilient if given half a chance. Human beings are in the position of offering or withholding that chance.
There is an Ecological Footprint Quiz at a site associated with the Earthday Network. An absorbing and interactive series of questions allows us to determine any possible human footprint (in hectares) for a number of possible countries and standards of living. Ethiopia and several other African countries are potential settings for the quiz as are the United States and many members of the European Union. Try it out.

Those tigabugna 'greens'

Malaria Risk Map

From the Foreign Dispatches Blog some strong words on the subject of Malaria, Mosquitoes, DDT and environmentalists
"Whenever I've said in the past that many environmental activists are actually pleased at the ubiquity of trypanosomiasis and malaria on the African continent, seeing it as a good thing for wildlife conservation, I've been accused of either lying or engaging in exaggeration... "
Read the rest at Putting Mosquitoes Before People.

Of course environmentalists as a group do provide a valuable service in the needed worldwide struggle over development and its limits. Increasingly, though, extreme 'green' pronouncements have begun to resemble a civil religion. In rich countries the government, business interests and an informed populace can tame the fatwas of extreme environmentalism.Thus there is no damage to standards of living while great strides can be made in preservation. In the United States there have been very successful efforts to combat pollution since the birth of the environmental movement in the 1960s.

In poor countries, however, basic economic and social policies of development are often hostage to 'green' demands that would have no chance of actually interfering with an economy or life expectancy in the rich world. The pressure is felt through the manipulation of foreign aid, loans and the simple denial to provide or allow means such as DDT on the market.

In Ethiopia the term "tigabugna" refers to someone who is sated after a meal and avails himself of opportunities to meddle in the affairs of others. The extreme 'greens' of the rich world are too often such people. Curiously guilty about the relative luxuriousness of their lives they seek poor people to do their penance for them by staying poor.

A good antidote to extreme 'greens' is
"Bjorn Lomborg, a former member of Greenpeace, has been branded a traitor by the international environmental movement. His crime? He debunked almost all of its claims about the earth's perilous state."
Michael Crichton, the popular author, has a fascinating take on the 'green' civil religion that is a must read and a source of much of the above. We mention how Africa is going through like issues with genetically modified crops in this post.

UPDATE: Nicholas Kristoff in the January 8, 2005 New York Times Op-Ed page says "It's Time to Spray DDT" (no link available).
In the 1950's, 60's and early 70's, DDT was used to reduce malaria around the world, even eliminating it in places like Taiwan. But then the growing recognition of the harm DDT can cause in the environment - threatening the extinction of the bald eagle, for example - led DDT to be banned in the West and stigmatized worldwide. Ever since, malaria has been on the rise.

The poor countries that were able to keep malaria in check tend to be the same few that continued to use DDT, like Ecuador. Similarly, in Mexico, malaria rose and fell with the use of DDT. South Africa brought back DDT in 2000, after a switch to other pesticides had led to a surge in malaria, and now the disease is under control again. The evidence is overwhelming: DDT saves lives.

But most Western aid agencies will not pay for anti-malarial programs that use DDT, and that pretty much ensures that DDT won't be used. Instead, the U.N. and Western donors encourage use of insecticide-treated bed nets and medicine to cure malaria.

Bed nets and medicines are critical tools in fighting malaria, but they're not enough. The existing anti-malaria strategy is an underfinanced failure, with malaria probably killing 2 million or 3 million people each year.

DDT doesn't work everywhere. It wasn't nearly as effective in West African savannah as it was in southern Africa, and it's hard to apply in remote villages. And some countries, like Vietnam, have managed to curb malaria without DDT.

But overall, one of the best ways to protect people is to spray the inside of a hut, about once a year, with DDT. This uses tiny amounts of DDT - 450,000 people can be protected with the same amount that was applied in the 1960's to a single 1,000-acre American cotton farm.
Lo and behold! Greenpeace and the World Wildlife Fund support the return of DDT. Kristoff highlights bureaucratic inertia as the reason for the reluctance to use it.

Wednesday, July 14

Natural decaf

Naturally occuring decaf coffee beans have been discovered among Ethiopian samples taken to Brazil decades ago. Coffee is Ethiopia's largest export earner and a natural market for the newfound beans is likely. Provenance issues have come into play between the Brazilian scientists and Ethiopia.

Disagreement over an open letter to Tony Blair

There is a frank exchange of views on Ben's News Page where a group called the Concerned Ethiopians take issue with the appointment of the Ethiopian PM to the Commission for Africa chaired by Tony Blair. They ask that the West demand transparency and accountability of the Ethiopian government as a condition of further monetary support. They state that
African development is hampered primarily by political failure, at the domestic as well as international level, to tailor the application of sound economic principles to the unusual circumstances that prevail in Africa. This failure has less to do with incompetence than with the narrowness with which self-interest is defined by donor countries as well as by African leaderships including many of those waiting in the wings to replace them.
To make matters worse, duly “elected” African dictators who pay more attention to their paymasters in Brussels and Washington, D.C., are audacious enough to present themselves to the international community as reincarnated reformers. The complicity of donors in this morbid political dance never ceases to astound us. As the Ethiopian saying aptly puts it, “those who feign sleep will not heed wake-up calls.”
In the economic sphere, the urban and rural lands that were nationalized by the previous regime continue to be state owned. Small farmers, who enjoy neither tenure security nor food security, are being threatened by the regime’s cadres with eviction and jail for voting against government candidates or for failing to service loans for fertilizer and seeds even after being hit by successive drought and collapsing markets.
Tintag expresses his disagreement in Come not to counsel, Uncalled. He sees instead that
(T)he virtue of “Zenawinomics” – food-security plus poverty reduction, equals Rapid Economic Growth...(the Concerned Ethiopians) salvo on Ethiopia’s hard-working, pragmatic, personality-cult-allergic, and yet, misunderstood Prime Minister, only serves to highlight the presence of a virus responsible for causing blindness amongst the signatories.
(The) Press Law, which, among other things, is designed to rein in cowboy journalists without undermining the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of thought and of press, is, to our intellectuals, “draconian”.
(M)ore should be expected "from the intelligentsia by way of being appreciative of the fact that, despite political differences, it really is an act of virtue to celebrate together the honour Meles has scored for Ethiopia.
Let's see now... political opponents should feel such a rush of national pride in the makeup of various international commissions that they should simply silence themselves. Or perhaps given the new press law the state will do the silencing for them. Check out the Watch List of the International Press Institute, an global network dedicated to freedom of the press and to improving the standards and practices of journalism. Basically, according to Tintag, dissent is an indication of ill will or a sign of infection by a "virus responsible for causing blindness". The use of a medical metaphor for dissent is especially ominous in this situation.

UPDATE AdamSmithee, a blog concentrating on issues of economic development, has this to say about the interim report from the Commission for Africa following a widely publicised series of meeting including one where Tony Blair visited Ethiopia.
Commission for Africa: Exciting New Ideas!

Not really. Tony Blair's Commission for Africa has issued an interim report with the following policy conclusions: (i) the investment climate, infrastructure, trade and employment are important to foster growth which will lead to poverty reduction; (ii) more aid should be given (pehaps using the IFF mechanism) and it should be targeted at countries that use it well; (iii) there should be more debt relief.
Exactly the point - the basics of excaping poverty have never been secret. The meetings could have spent the same time and money noting that using umbrellas promotes dryness when it is raining.

Tuesday, July 13

Meles defends genetically modified crops

From IRINnews
"Should we rule out GM crops or biotechnology as a weapon in our arsenal? No. Why should we rule out any technology? GM technology is like every [other] technology," Meles told journalists. "It could be used well, or it could be misused. The issue is how to use it well. I think it can be used well if is used safely and if it does not increase the already big power of huge multinationals at the expense of the small-scale farmer."
This is a welcome statement from the Prime Minister because it is purely pragmatic. Controversy over genetically modified crops has plagued Africa even as millions suffered from famines and chronic food insecurity. The conflict is outlined in the World Press Review. In 2002 Southern Africa was
"in the grip of a devastating famine. A recent report from the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that nearly 14 million people, including 2.3 million children under the age of 5, are at risk of starvation. Without effective action the WHO says at least 300,000 could die from hunger and disease in the next six months. Aid agencies estimate that the region needs roughly 1.1 million tons of grain to address the crisis. Yet when the U.S. offered 540,000 tons of genetically modified grain to countries in the region, many countries rejected the offer."
Why reject aid in such dire straits? A few like Mugabe in Zimbabwe are just plain ornery. He rejects aid in the face of widespread starvation while claiming self sufficiency. He even refuses to allow the level of need to be determined by U.N. agencies. From the BBC
"Some donors are sceptical, believing that the government wants to control food aid and only distribute it to its supporters ahead of elections next year."
The Economist weighs in with this article aptly titled Better dead than GM-fed? Europe's greens are helping to keep Africans hungry
"Africans have two reasons for being wary of GM food aid: one silly, one slightly less so. The silly reason is the suggestion that GM foods are a danger to human health. Americans have been chomping GM maize and soyabeans for seven years, without detectable harm. And compared with the clear and immediate danger posed by malnutrition, the possibility of being poisoned by Frankencorn seems rather remote. The more sensible reason for being wary of GM foods is that there are people who, not being in any danger of starvation, are precious about what they eat. They are called Europeans. And their tastes matter enormously in Africa because countries such as Zambia earn much of their hard currency from agricultural exports to rich countries, so any plausible threat to this trade has to be taken extremely seriously."
In the World Press Review a potentially sinister but potentially profitable reason for pushing GM crops is described
"African agricultural experts also fear that, in order to protect their markets, biotech companies could introduce a “terminator” gene in their seeds, which would prevent small farmers from replanting them after harvest. This would make farmers dependent on big companies that control the price of seeds."
The Monitor of Kampala provides a vivid perspective of this dilemma.
"US seed companies are keen to sell their products to foreign market, but have so far had limited success. Many Europeans fear long-term harm to human health and the environment.

As the war of words between US and Europe continues, the US has been knocking at the door of developing countries seeking support for their case. Where does this leave Uganda?

Mr Richard Kimera, of the Uganda Consumer Protection Association said: "This trade war between the US and Europe over genetically modified foods is not a war for Uganda or Africa."

Mr Kimera described the "food politics", as a battle between economic elephants oblivious of the interests of less developed nations."
Wikepedia has a good brief on these issues.

Absent the threat of “terminator” genes as determined by vigorous Government and International monitors it seems that there is a strong argument for exploiting GM crops when and where appropriate. The benefit will be for Africa's original environmentalists -subsistence and commercial farmers- whose 'green' view of the world is firmly rooted in the reality of survival. That is unlike the EU's greens who like Rousseau find vicarious comfort in the lack of development everywhere but where they live. GM crops will also reduce the use of costly and potentially damaging chemical fertilizers.

There are more interesting debates at the intersection of Third World development and environmentalism. When the West decided to ban the production of the pesticide DDT in the 1960s millions of African and Asian lives may have been lost as a consequence. See Campaign grows for Malaria drug which raises the possibility of an African inspired comeback for DDT. More on that issue in a future post.

Unfortunately, despite PM Meles's pragmatism on the GM crops issue, what is arguably the main element in attaining food security and economic growth is totally overlooked; the very basic principle of property rights. The PM has stated that he has "never heard of any convincing reason as to why we should privatize land”. More on this ideological policy in a future post.

Monday, July 12

Ethiopians seek lost orphans

Ethiopian Soldiers in Korea from the Korean War Veteran's Page

This story from a Korean newspaper caught our attention. Hat tip to The Marmot's Hole.

INSIDE JoongAng Daily

CHUNCHEON, Gangwon province
Veterans of the Korean War from Ethiopia have expressed hopes of meeting the children that were raised in an orphanage they established and maintained during the war.
On a recent visit by a support group to participate in a commemoration day for Ethiopia's Korean War veterans, the men, mostly in their 70s, said the children they supported were raised at the Bowha Orphanage in Dongducheon, Gyeonggi province.
Ethiopia sent 6,037 soldiers to aid South Korea during the war. Some 121 troops were killed, and 536 were wounded in action.
"We have been visiting Ethiopia in the past few years to provide aid to Korean War veterans and every time we went, they asked about the children from the orphanage," said Shin Kwang-chul, general secretary at the Supporters Association for the Ethiopian Veterans of Korean War. "They want to meet the former orphans while they are still healthy enough to come to Korea," he added.
After fighting in the war, the Ethiopians established the Bowha Orphanage in April 1953 and took care of children. The facility was operated from funds that Ethiopian soldiers gathered by donating part of their pay. The orphanage offered shelter 60 to 70 children. What happened to the children after Ethiopian troops went home in 1956 is unclear. There is little documentation.
At the invitation of the Korea Veterans Association, six Ethiopian veterans will visit Korea from June 23 to 28.
Here is an excellent website set up in 'Rememberance of Ethiopian Veterans of the Korean War'. It is a project of the Addis Ababa University Alumni Network. Despite the passage of more than half a century the Kagnew battalions are fondly remembered by those who served with them from around the world and students of history in South Korea. The result of their efforts and those of other United Nations forces is evident in the prosperous democracy South Korea has become and its alternate history just across its northern border. The Korean War veterans page has photographs of the Kagnew battalions in Korea.

This website of The Korean War Project has a page with contact information regarding Ethiopian and American veterans of the Korean War. There is a memorial to the veterans at the Trinity Cathedral in Addis Ababa. For a more recent perspective this frank and interesting interview from The Ethiopian Reporter with the South Korean Ambassador to Ethiopia is worth a read.

just getting started

ethiopundit is an information, opinion and factoid bazaar for all things Ethiopian (and anywhere else) that we find interesting.

Sunday, July 4