Thursday, October 20

No More Appeasement

The recent EU Parliament denunciation of the ‘election’ and its aftermath as well as recent US Congressional views put the Western Strategic Dilemma there into stark relief. The foreign policy of every country is based on self interest. Self interest and projections of self interest over time can combine with occasional frank altruism to bring about policy beneficial to countries like Ethiopia.

Such a window of opportunity is now opening. The West in general now has a very clear picture of the TPLF from its open behavior after the ‘election.‘ The donor nations seem to be in the process of making decisions for the future that are no longer based on wishful thinking about personalities and rhetoric.

It is valuable to examine a similar situation in recent history for instruction. Once again we will ask our readers to take part in a familiar thought experiment. Close your eyes and imagine Ethiopia’s politburo was White and that they had exactly the same policies in place that the current genetically Ethiopian politburo does.

Naturally one would think of Apartheid era South Africa or a nation fallen victim to colonialism long past its expiration date. Wonder along with us why any dictator should be given credit just for looking like his victims?


Self Interest
--SA was the source of crucial strategic materials for Western economies and their militaries
--The Cape of Good Hope was near vital shipping lanes and especially after the closing of the Suez Canal (and given its size limitations even when it was open), a friendly presence on those waters was needed
--Soviet expansion in Africa, and Southern African in particular, required a convenient Western proxy to counter it
--There were billions in every Western currency invested and paying dividends in the generally advanced economy and market in SA
--SA was stable in comparison to the rest of Africa

Long term Self Interest with a Degree of Altruism in the mix
--Apartheid would lead to greater instability in the long term and serve Soviet interests in Africa even beyond propaganda value
--Apartheid was morally repugnant and despite every manner of strategic calculation, the public of the West would not long tolerate accommodation of it - or more important with their own governments that did


The appearance of policy against apartheid
--SA was kicked out of symbolic institutions like the Olympics or various Rugby Leagues.
--It was occasionally treated rudely by Western governments with loud criticism and diplomatic sanctions that really meant nothing at all


Actual policy against apartheid
--An arms embargo was placed on SA with the full knowledge that SA could make anything it need to for itself. The French, for example, basically sponsored SA manufacture of Mirage fighter jets
--Economic sanctions and divestment were never an issue beyond talk and popular protest until late in the game when they began to bite


--the Sullivan Principles (more on these below) mandated sanctions against particular businesses that did not meet standards for race blind or at least more black friendly practices

--the Soviet Empire started to fall apart at about the same time some sanctions were coming on line with the possibility of many more. Without security considerations to hold the West back, this made the SA government worry far more than usual - especially as the economy began to contract from the first sanctions alone

But, there is always opportunity in crisis ... the same situation also provided the apartheid government with an opportunity to change without worrying about Soviet control of popular Black empowerment of any degree. So far we have not noted the absolutely vital role of the burgeoning Black movement for freedom. Black SA was not a silent spectator while all of these decisions were being made.

As the occasional armed but far more importantly unarmed, united, morally omnipotent, rational and increasingly fearless Black movement gained strength, the SA government saw its own interests increasingly defined by opening up and ditching apartheid ... while it could still do so peacefully. The release of Mandella and elections followed naturally in a victory for all concerned


The lessons for Ethiopia in the SA example
--the vagaries of Western self interest, policy and their usefulness (and potential harm)
--the use of detailing the moral element of a Western break with the TPLF
--the utility of encouraging the type of Western behavior that weakened apartheid
--the utility of emphasizing the self interest in both the long and the short term that the West has against an ongoing alliance with the TPLF and in an alliance with Ethiopians

Ethiopian government is defined by an unprecedented degree of structural corruption and bad policies that guarantee poverty and dependence on the kindness of the West. That and threat of instability that is encouraged and based on Ethiopian government policies makes the situation all the more difficult for all than in SA.

--there is no right to private ownership of land which all of human experience has shown is needed for any political and economic development. Indeed all are serfs or at best sharecroppers of the TPLF with little prospect of the opportunities to develop that are easily well within the capacities of the land and the people. There is no structural reason that Ethiopia should be a beggar nation in any way beyond the oppressive structure and policies of the TPLF

--the Bolshevik-Maoist TPLF, the government that is defined by it, government economic monopolies, party and crony owned businesses, armed forces, all powerful brutal security forces, the judiciary, the parliament, the media and regional bantustan governments utterly dominated by the center are all one and the same

--per capita foreign direct investment, per capita income, per capita spending on health and education and per capita agricultural production are either at the very bottom worldwide or very close to it. Indeed all of these factors have worsened since the fall of the Dergue and Ethiopia is now the poorest country on earth and is getting poorer

--the TPLF can not survive without aid, even aid providing direct budget support for every basic from pencils to possibly out of place advanced fighter jets. All infrastructure projects are carried out with the interest and finance from aid givers who also feed Ethiopians, up to 15 million of whom require constant food aid to survive. Much or the rest are chronically malnourished, also because of government policy

--foreign aid has helped the TPLF become independent of accountability with the Ethiopian people. The normal process of the development of democratic and economic accountability and institutions has been short circuited. What matters most with the TPLF mode of government is getting along with Western aid donors - not Ethiopians.

--Ethiopians of every ethnicity, region and religion serve as hostages of the government that essentially promises them harm unless it is continually patronized by the West and allowed to remain in power without hindrance. The TPLF routinely makes that threat in calls for ongoing struggle and a return to the fortresses of war.

Instability is carefully nurtured by the TPLF and often simulated to increase Western attention to its utility as a partner. This is done because its chosen mode of Leninist-Maoist government with bits of monopoly and crony capitalism grafted on will always make for weakness that is outweighed by the benefits of depending on foreigners rather than Ethiopians for the sake of continued rule.

Above all, the TPLF has so categorically weakened Ethiopia and is so effectively strangling its chances for progress that if aid cuts or economic sanctions are used it is clear that innocent Ethiopians will suffer long before the revolutionary aristocracy does.

This accentuates the moral and practical bind that Ethiopians and friends of Ethiopian must deal with. When SA was the issue there was little hesitation among Black SA and their friends to use sanctions even though blacks would be harmed first.

While Ethiopians are rather more desperate under the TPLF than Blacks were in SA, that does not provide the TPLF with an eternal lock on power. There is ample room for maneuver to cut the Gordian Knot that TPLF and its eternal policy of beggar status have caused.

To see what role the West may play in this let us take a look at ...


Self Interest
--Interest is essentially negative - meaning that under the TPLF nothing good is expected but they want to prevent things from getting worse
--The US is concerned with the War on Terror, the potential for instability, and the role of Ethiopian intelligence activities in Somalia and Sudan
--The EU are concerned with the same with more accent on the potential for instability that the West may have to respond to and the potential for the immigration problems of Europe to be compounded by millions of new refugees

Long term Self Interest with a Degree of Altruism in the mix
---Everyone is concerned with stability but there is also a realization that the TPLF is both cause, effect and the most likely to profit from instability
--There is ever present and growing moral revulsion with the TPFL that the ‘election’ and aftermath have accentuated.
--There is also a sense that without demands for good governance and human rights that any level of aid will be wasted.
--It is becoming ever more clear that the TPLF does not represent anything but a guarantor of very short term Western interests and in the long term that it is a threat to Western aims


The appearance of policy on behalf of Ethiopians
--this has been the case thus far. Generally, thinking that they have found ‘an African we can deal with,’ the West has been silent on basic issues of good governance and human rights while wishing against all evidence for some 'future post-election and post-massive aid infusion paradise' when all hopes and expectations would miraculously be met

The ‘election’ and its aftermath blew up this whole pretty picture and left no excuses behind. TPLF behavior since has been more obviously than ever brutal towards Ethiopians while EU concerns have been met with frankly shrill abuse that must have raised some serious questions about how Ethiopians suffered - if the actual TPLF paymasters were being so insulted.

Actual policy in support of Ethiopians?
--Beyond threats on the subject of aid cuts, the UK, for example, has already cancelled significant planned aid increases
--The EU election report mentions the The Cotonou Agreement. This is ominous news for the TPLF because the development partnership so defined explicitly states that
* Respect for human rights, democratic principles and the rule of law are essential elements of the partnership.

* A new procedure has been drawn up to deal with violations. It puts more emphasis on the responsibility of the State concerned and allows for greater flexibility in the consultation process. In cases of special urgency - serious violations of one of the essential elements - measures will be taken immediately and the other party notified.

* Commitment to good governance as a fundamental and positive element of the partnership, a subject for regular dialogue and an area for active Community support.

* The EC and the ACP [African, Caribbean and Pacific] have also agreed on a new specific procedure to be launched in serious cases of corruption. This is a real innovation, both in the EC-ACP context and in international relations. It is not confined to EC activities.

It will be applied in cases of corruption involving EDF money and more widely, in any country where the EC is financially involved and where corruption constitutes an obstacle to development.

This is a very important aspect, as public finance constitutes a whole, regardless of the source of finance; corruption involving other sources of financing therefore indirectly affects EDF funding. The EC and the ACP States are together sending a clear and positive signal to European taxpayers and investors, and legitimate beneficiaries of aid.
If the EU is serious about the Cotunou Agreement and if it is tired of hearing excuses and insults from the TPLF then there are interesting times ahead. It has also become clear that the issues with the TPLF are structural, meaning they are built in and not necessarily subject to improvement with promises or PR campaigns.

The opposition to the TPLF has responded to its stolen victory with exemplary fortitude and strategy. It is now placed within and without the TPLF parliament and is posed to cause migraines within the politburo. The West will be watching very closely what happens and the EU and the US have explicitly demanded changes in new parliamentary rules that may make that gathering actually mean something.

Most importantly, it is clear to all observers that there is a rational, indeed preferrable, alternative to the TPLF as a development and security partner.

Joint EU & US demands for access to the media and an easing of the state of tyranny will by necessity end TPLF rule if they are met. The TPLF will of course resist and at some point will openly put mass violence and the fate of its 70 million hostages on the negotiating table with its ultimate constituency in the West.

The threat will essentially be: leave us alone to rule forever or your sanctions and our violence will cause millions to suffer.


The structurally determined mess characteristic of all one party states is also familiar to Zimbabweans. According to the Independent of Zimbabwe, government / ruling party owned businesses there are "in a shambles" with billions lost to corruption and mismanagement with considerable "externalization of funds". Often there are no records of audits having been done at any time, significant deals are made verbally with no other record and no one knows who owns what.

The only constant is that the ever poorer Zimbabwean population pays and pays. Doesn’t that sound familiar? In addition Mugabe has a horrible human rights and economic record compounded by an absence of private property rights. So what did the West do about Mugabe?

The US Departments of State and the Treasury under an Executive Order are bound to act because
Zimbabwe’s government has conducted a concerted campaign of violence, repression, and intimidation showing its disregard for human rights, the rule of law, and the welfare of its citizens. Ultimately Zimbabweans must resolve their political crisis, and the United States supports the region's call for the government to enter into dialogue with the political opposition to find a solution acceptable to the people of Zimbabwe.


The United States’ sanctions target only those responsible for Zimbabwe's political crisis and not ordinary citizens. They support regional and international efforts to convince Zimbabwe’s government to abandon political repression and engage in meaningful dialogue with the political opposition.

Should Zimbabwe’s rulers continue to oppress its citizens and to resist forthright efforts toward resolving the country’s political crisis, we are prepared to impose additional targeted financial and travel sanctions on those [INDIVIDUALS] undermining democracy in Zimbabwe.
Here is an example of what was done by Executive Order. Having
determined that the actions and policies of certain members of the Government of Zimbabwe and other persons to undermine Zimbabwe’s democratic processes or institutions, contributing to the deliberate breakdown in the rule of law in Zimbabwe, to politically motivated violence and intimidation in that country, and to political and economic instability in the southern African region, constitute an unusual and extraordinary threat to the foreign policy of the United States
The EU for its part has
imposed various sanctions measures against named Ministers and officials of the Government of Zimbabwe. The measures were -
--an arms embargo,
--a ban on technical assistance, financing and financial assistance related to military activities,
--a ban on the supply of equipment that could be used for internal repression
--a visa ban for Ministers and officials and their spouses, and
--a freeze of the assets belonging to the Ministers and officials.

The arms embargo encompasses the sale, supply or transfer of arms and related material (including military vehicles, ammunition, paramilitary equipment, and spare parts), and technical advice, assistance or training related to military activities. It also prohibits the sale or supply of equipment that could be used for internal repression.
Every measure above may not be appropriate in an Ethiopian context but all serve as a valuable base for the future alliance between Ethiopian and Western interests. One issue sure to be raised by the TPLF in its defense is the boogeyman of instability. The EU had this to say on that subject
But the European Union, the Commonwealth and the African states, collectively and individually, also have responsibilities to the region and they must now take action against a man who is quite literally getting away with murder. We cannot accept that to impose targeted sanctions would have "little impact", or that they would lead to a dangerous black-white split.

The decision by Mr Mugabe to delay the access to information and protection of privacy bill and the announcement that some foreign journalists and observers will be allowed in to Zimbabwe to cover the March election (however cynical this may be) comes only after threats have been made to freeze Mr Mugabe's assets abroad.

The only certainties, if Mr Mugabe wins, are that he will unleash a terrible vengeance against his political opponents and a refugee crisis, directly affecting Britain and the EU, will follow. The question is not "Can we afford to risk sanctions?", but "Can we afford not to?"
That terrible vengeance is coming to pass there. For example, Mugabe named 'Operation Clean Out the Trash' himself to destroy the homes of 700,000 allegedly illegal squatters who also just happened to represent oppostition to his rule. The African Union, which was blessed the TPLF 'election' and those of Mengistu as well, found nothing wrong in the sudden de-housing of all those victims of Mugabe.

As we see above, the West, the US and the EU both, did not hesitate to act boldly in Zimbabwe against individuals held responsible for particular crimes. This was done despite the fake issue of risk of a tribal / racial split or of great harm done to Zimbabweans because greater benefits for all were seen in action - just as there was in South Africa two decades ago.


Food aid and aid related to health should not be an issue for obvious reasons. All other aid and budget support should be on the table as a level playing field is sought in Ethiopian affairs. To do this an alliance must be created to ensure the natural partnership in these circumstances between Ethiopians and the West.

It should be noted that it is the weakness and the structural failure mandated by TPLF policies that has brought everyone to a situation where foreigners are needed to help Ethiopians against their own government.

Appeals will certainly be made to pride, history and nationalism on this point but they are obviously not to be taken seriously. For example, after decades of belittling all Ethiopian and Tigrayan history before 1975, the TPLF all of a sudden celebrated the return of the Axum obelisk this year just as in 1998 it all of a sudden remembered the convenient emotional call of Ethiopian history.

Appeals to the suffering of Ethiopians must be understood based on the fact that it is the policies of the TPLF that are making Ethiopians suffer to begin with. There is no determined history or holy book anywhere that consigns Ethiopians to misery and beggar status.

All Ethiopians need to advance the way nations all over the world have is the chance to do so. All of the basic raw materials already exist in the Ethiopian mind. In terms of the potential of the physical setting even more potential exists.

Policy changes must be based on ECONOMIC and POLITICAL factors that are inseperable but that may be considered seperately.

Economic Conditions

There should be a set of Neo-Sullivan principles based on the Cotonou Agreement. Cotonou is adequate but a new decision to enforce it practically is needed.

It should be noted that the private sector and foreign direct investment are totally dominated by the party / government or very tiny in scope. Thus attention will by necessity be directed towards knowledge of and sanctions against the party / government apparatus or rather particular individuals within it.

--Aid money should be directed to specific projects as much as possible. For example, the building of one bridge or a point to point road project that is not open ended and whose costs should be known
--There should be absolute transparency in all government agencies and private contractors that deal with aid money as a condition for aid and contracts
--This will reveal the not so hidden but totally non transparent web of government / party / crony enterprises and businesses that dominate the economy and shut out the benefits of competition

Why not? There is absolutely no compelling reason for the financial dealings of any government official or anyone else who deals with sums of public money to have any degree of secrecy at all. This is normal practice in most prosperous democracies and all nations fastest on the way to escaping poverty and being free.

This will also do away with once and for all, unfair charges of corruption. The innocent will be spared attention and these means should allow those few who benefit most from corrupt practices to be positively identified.

--There should be fairness mandated in providing contracts based on aid that should benefit the whole private sector and not only those who are most in synch with or actually part of the hydra headed empire of government / party / business.

--At some point, unless the essential fairness of the above points is met, budget support aid should become conditional on meeting the above goals. To do this either an independent agency or company should be enlisted to serve as a corps of national auditors.

Just as the opposition is protected by the constant attention of aid donors, a group of accountants and translators should have the same commitment of interest granted them to carry out with international participants a thorough check of the books.

All government spending dependent on aid budget support as well as associated business enterprises connected financially to government and party officials should be subjected to such attention.

--Far more important than all of the above there should be insistence on the issue of land privitization. Every country without land rights is poor and despotic according to the degree of freedom given. This is a fact without exception in human history.

This is also crucial in terms of limiting the web of debt, agricultural marketing controls, access to essentials such as salt & sugar and the distribution of land based on political controls that party /government businesses and inseparable local authorities use to control the vast majority of the rural populace.

If aid is not to be wasted and Ethiopians are to be recognized as the ultimate authors of their own success they should be given the same set of tools that donor nations had to become self sufficient and then wealthy.

Political Conditions

There are certainly enough political implications to the economics section above but more directed goals are needed to serve the interests of Ethiopians and the West in terms of Neo-Sullivan Principles or an aggressive Cotonou Agreement.

Aid beyond food and health projects should be subject to not only good governance and transparency as defined above but also on human rights practices. Of course, such decisions should be based, just as above, on WHO is making decisions and WHO benefits from bad practices in any realm.

--There should be an insistence on an investigation of the events of the Addis Ababa Massacre of June 6-8 with international participation. A model for this is the investigation in Lebanon / Syria led by UN officials into the car bombing murder of opponents to Syrian control.

The requests detailed in the EU Parliamentary complaint about the 'election' are largely sufficient to provide for the further development of democracy.

--Knowledge from every source open and hidden utilizing leaks, audits and frank intelligence collection should determine which individuals and organizations within the party / business / government structure give orders and carry out acts in violation of human rights.

--Military aid and security aid may not have to be cut if a clear distinction is made between military and security aid that is used for internal repression and that used for external defense.

This is of particular importance especially as the Eritrean issue heats up (rather convenient timing right?) and Al Quaeda, (which certainly is a threat but one exagerated conveniently) is suddenly discovered under every rock. Seperation of internal and external issues should also serve to show that the military does not serve as an occupying force.


The main argument about using aid dependency as a weapon against bad governance is that the common people will suffer. Using the Cotonou Agreement as a starting point and Sullivan like principles it is possible to identify particular individuals who are making decisions and their own financial intersts and to sanction them while sparing the larger nation and economy and certainly doing less harm than the TPLF is already doing.

Given an EU and / or US policy like this, anyone within the infernal web of inseperable party / government / business who makes a decision to be corrupt or who causes the violation of human rights will be INDIVIDUALLY accountable for their decisions and should expect
--that they will be locked out of decisions or access to all funds from foreign aid or budget support either as party members, government officials or businessmen
--that all of their foreign funds, holdings and investments will be frozen and subject to suit from those violated by the decisions made by those individuals
--that they will be banned from travel to participating nations and in fear of extradition from others - particularly for orders for violence of incitement of it
--that the chain of political command and the identical web of financial interests will be held accountable in a gradual spreading fashion based on known relationships and structures of control
--that their partners will be sanctioned according to the continual presence and associations that they have with illicit practices of corrupt and violence ordering individuals
--that no longer under any circumstances will 'following orders' or 'everyone is doing it' be excuses for corrupt and criminal acts

The examples of South Africa in the past and Zimbabwe today provide precedent for this while the fact that the TPLF is far more subject to influence by such pressures by its own insistence on economic failure as a strategy for power helps all considerations.

Ultimately the aim of identifying accountable responsible parties is the reform not only of Ethiopian governance at large but particularly that of the TPLF. As often as in this post alone we have identified the TPLF as a problem it is not essentially an obstacle to progress.

The obstacles are not amidst the great majority of well meaning party members but amidst the vanishing few of the revolutionary feudal aristocracy and nobility whose interests run counter to those of their own party and country.

Reform and advancement in Ethiopia is impossible without reform and advancement within the TPLF. Most of its members without doubt recognize the benefits of tried and true policies to gain freedom and prosperity and are sick and tired of silly mantras of absurd ideologies.

At this point, in a system that is to be democratic, no one is yet beyond redemption. What should be done to bring about peaceful change is to leverage the mutual interests of all Ethiopians and the West against the politburo and its minions. The party / government / business machine may have chosen the West as a constituency rather than Ethiopians but all things are fluid and mutual self interest can be found in a variety of combinations.

Of course, there is little chance of all of the above ever happening anytime soon. But ... the West does appear to be moving in that general direction ... in combination with the actions of the opposition it will ultimately lead to much good for Ethiopians.


This will be the last of the long ethiopundit posts for a little while. Some definitely enjoy them long and others just tolerate them while wishing for shorter ones. We always write what we would want to read - and that has always worked with readers either way. We started this blog with the aim of building a basis of argument, brick by brick, against the essential defining and BAD policies of this government. Our aim was also to identify rational, tried and true solutions that were no secret to all the decent governments on earth.

Simply put, we are right about the unrivaled potential for liberal democracy, capitalism and the rejection of all extreme ideologies to improve human life anywhere on earth. What we have to say is backed up by centuries of human experience at delivering freedom and plenty to ordinary humans everywhere.

After all, none of this is rocket science - it is just common sense - some ideas always fail and others always work. Even when judgement is not so simple, some ideas always do far worse than others. Many of these issues have been defined in the Ethiopian context for far too long by totalitarian and doomed to fail ideologies, that to our revulsion have been the basis of government.

So ... at sixteen months and counting we will finish the projects we have begun, but in blog posts at least, that will never again exceed one page unless it is a rerun - and to be satisfied with shorter ones overall.

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