Thursday, April 27

The World Is Yours VII - Wise Guys

You're supposed to be earners, that's why you've got the top positions.

Tony Soprano
Schoool of Graduate Management. From The Godfather - image.


Opposition leader Merera Gudina on the 'election':
"The EPRDF would not give into defeat because without the power all its investments and luxurious life would be at risk."

With the kind permission of the author, we are serializing some selections from this remarkable article “The Great Purge and Ideological Paradox in Contemporary Ethiopian Politics” by Professor Paulos Milkias (copyright 2001). The author examines in detail the history of contemporary Ethiopia and of her ruling party. This is the second part of a section concerned with the economy of Revolutionary Democracy.

One point to remember always is the essentially corrupt worldview of tribal divide and rule cherished by the government. The TPLF and Meles Inc. serve the interests of the Tigrayan people just about as much as the EPRDF serves the interests of all Ethiopians. Keep in mind that despite the insidious efforts of the Politburo to associate its activities with the good name of Tigrayans it is clear that a very few permanent professional feudal revolutionaries rule for their own benefit - NOT that of Tigrayans in general. More on this in the post In Whose Name?.


“New Free Enterprise” within “New Democratic Revolution” Continued

In most cases, the TPLF companies function independently. In other cases, they carry out their businesses through joint ventures with private Ethiopian as well as foreign investors. Those that own companies as a joint venture with the TPLF have preferential treatment while others that are independent have an uphill fight in advancing their business ventures. Mr. Meles has this to say concerning the matter:

There are those who fear that government and party enterprises may use their power to patronize those that work with them and pulverize those that fail to cooperate with them. Coming mostly from comprador quarters, such views are indeed justified. In fact the compradors understand the mission of the enterprises better than some members of our party and it is due to this fact that they vehemently detest them.

Actually, many of the successful businessmen in Addis Ababa have financial connections with the TPLF. If we take EFFORT, we see that it owns 51% share in Addis Pharmaceutical Factory, and Star Pharmaceutical and Medical Supply. Most of the remaining shares are those of Mulugeta Guade Mengiste [an Amhara] who has risen like a rocket in the business circle in Addis Ababa within a span of a decade. Mulugeta is in control of Addis International Trading while at the same time being a major shareholder in the BANK of Abyssinia and NILE Insurance. Yemru Nega Denbel, proprietor of the Yebcimad Construction firm has a multi-million Birr investment with its Denbel Building in Addis Ababa. EFFORT that owns Guna has the single most important block of shares of UNITED Insurance. Gebreyes Begna, the owner of the large private distribution company Ethio-Amalgamated has also a large block of EFFORT shares in his business venture. EFFORT also controls Meskerem and Mesebi Companies with Italian investors to whom the TPLF has provided political patronage. Through aggressive and unfair competition, EFFORT is literally squeezing private businesses out of existence.

It is interesting that despite the restrictions of the law, EFFORT and its branch plants are in every dent of the Ethiopian economy. As a party owned conglomerate, EFFORT is divided into 5 sectors - each having its own share companies headed by senior officials and Cadres. The first area they control is Industry, which is directed by Abadi Zemo. This [industrial] branch has the group companies of Meseo Building Materials Construction, Sheba Tannery, Almeda Textile, Almeda Garment, Addis Pharmaceuticals and Mesfin Industrial Engineering. The second area of control is mining, which is directed by Tedros Hagos, and has under it, Meskerem Investment and Ezana Mining. The third area of control is Finance and Trade directed by Sebhat Nega. This branch owns Wegagen Bank, Africa Insurance and Guna Trading. The fourth branch of control is Construction and Transport directed by Arkebe Uqbay which has under it Addis Consultancy House, SUR Construction and Trans-Ethiopia. The fifth area of control is Agriculture directed by Tsegaye Taimyalew. This branch runs Hiwot Mechanisation, Tesfa Livestock and Rahwa Goat and Sheep Export.

The other three junior members of the umbrella organization the EPRDF, ANDM, OPDO and SEPDF have also common as well as their own party companies although on a much smaller scale. For example, ANDM has ENDEAVOUR, the OPDO has DINSHO and SEPDF has WENDO, all of which were created with the help of the TPLF.

Mr. Meles admits the TPLF has a much stronger muscle in this regard, but he denies that they indirectly also work for the good of Tigray. He comments:
One accusation that is aimed at [our ] party ventures is that they are created solely for the development of Tigray in opposition to the declared ideas of the EPRDF to develop all regions of Ethiopia. It is an undeniable fact that from the outset, the Tigray establishments started with a larger capital that they accumulated during the long armed struggle. Since the TPLF team had stronger and much better manpower; they were more successful in their business activities. That is why there is discrepancy in the capacities of the disparate party owned ventures.
A careful look shows, however, that EFFORT has direct control of the major businesses other EPRDF companies are engaged in. For example, as well as being in control of DEDEBIT Credit and Savings Institution which is a share company wholly Tigray owned and set up as a joint venture between the Government of Tigray and the Para-NGOs: REST, TWA, TFA. TYA, EFFORT is the towering single shareholder of EPRDF-controlled Wegagen Bank.

One disastrous result of the emergence of these semi-monopolies owned by the governing political parties is that they chocked out private businesses in almost every sector. Mr. Meles denies that when he says:

There is no need of raising the name-calling regarding the EPRDF's foundation enterprises. But one has to refute the false accusation that these enterprises have been used as instruments to muzzle in private entrepreneurs.

But Mr. Meles has commented in the Central Committee concerning these investors:
The political forces in Ethiopia ... that have co-existed with three governments are "compradors" and as such have no viable organization; nevertheless, they can contribute to the strengthening of “Bonapartism”. As the experiences of the last nine years have manifested, they are the ones that invite potential forces to a system of corruption.
Mr. Meles has suspicions that Ethiopia’s private investors encourage “Bonapartism” and corruption and are instruments of international capitalism and world imperialism. As a Marxist, therefore, he cautions about the danger and prescribes vigilance against them. He comments in this regard:

A paramount bastion of “Rotten Bonapartism” is comprador capitalism and its global network. A distinguishing characteristic of comprador capitalism is its nature to march along world imperialism and take control of government coffers and accumulate money through the process of systematic plunder. That is why they would be delighted to find a cooperative government to their illegal activities. By the same token, they would be highly disappointed if they do not. They would, if possible, try to control government coffers, or otherwise struggle to make the government in power a collaborating partner in the ongoing pillage.

A careful look proves that the private investors have been treated unfairly because the TPLF and other EPRDF owned corporation do not function by the rules of a fee enterprise system. As party owned companies, they enjoy many economic advantages the others do not have. They have the benefit of preferential access to government controlled credit facilities. They receive special treatment in operational and import/export licenses and custom clearances for their goods. They have preferential treatment over private enterprises with regard to government contracts. REST's transport services are transferred to TPLF companies through rigged governmental auctions. And above all, the TPLF regime puts pressure on corporations, business enterprises international donors, whether they are of private or government source to give preference to EPRDF companies.

The question that may be asked at this juncture is, are they really engaged in development projects or are they competing with private business where development is not the main motive? To answer this, if you take EFFORT"s transport, trade and construction companies, they enjoy almost a monopoly status in the country. For example, Guna monopolizes the wholesale and export trade with sesame and incense. Trans-Ethiopia is the only transport company that International donors can use to carry relief goods throughout Northern Ethiopia.

Mr. Meles has this to say about their present status and their future in the “Revolutionary Democracy” system he has charted for Ethiopia:

To those who have long-range vision, “Revolutionary Democracy” will assure that our party enterprises will freely compete with the private sector and use their revenues for the party's political aims.
The restricted documentation this author has consulted to do this part considers the EPRDF Business Empire as being, "by far, the largest concentration of economic power within Ethiopia and one of the largest business groups in Africa south of the Sahara and north of the Limpopo."


A word on some sources from the author:

Meles Zenawi, Gimgema Papers, 2001 Meles’ “Perspectives and “Bonapartism”,” and “Again on “Bonapartism”,” together with other shorter documents presented at the 2001 conference, are hereafter referred to in the footnotes as Meles Zenawi, Gimgema Papers, 2001. The translation of these Gimgema papers from Tigrigna to Amharic was rendered by Reporter Magazine.

The translation from Amharic to English is the author’s. This researcher pays tribute to the Reporter staff for the way they conducted themselves and particularly for their candid and fair reporting during the crisis. Both the Reporter and the Author have tried to be as faithful to the original as possible.

The author expresses gratitude to officials with Ethiopian interest at heart [they prefer to remain anonymous,] who supplied the special study documents on which the information in this section is based.


The Prime Minister on economics:
"Unlike in [Western Style] Liberal Democracy, in [Ethiopia’s] “Revolutionary Democracy,” there is no economic area that is outside its preserve. Only available capital and procurable management can limit its investment capacity.
This will be another long series from numerous sources detailing the essentially corrupt system that Ethiopians suffer under. A system that simultaneously wastes billions in aid dollars and euros while impoverishing millions:

The World Is Yours I
The World Is Yours II - The Syndicate
The World Is Yours III - The Commission
The World Is Yours IV - "An Offer They Can't Refuse"
The World Is Yours V - Capo di tutti Capi
The World Is Yours VI - Our Thing
The World Is Yours VII - Wise Guys
The World Is Yours VIII - Don't Hate the Player, Hate the Game
The World is Yours IX -

You get the idea.

Monday, April 24

Research Confirms Meles Inc. Desperate for MDG Billions

From Business in Africa (courtesy of EthioIndex) comes this fascinating headline: Research Confirms Ethiopia's High Growth.

Just from the title, dear reader, you know something is fishy right?

Here is what EthioMedia had to say in Ethiopia registers economic growth: fact or fiction? quoting a Norwatch document from From the Anti Yara 2005 Award committee in Norway
"The impressive figures regarding the growth in food production do not derive from the greatest authority in the field, the World’s Food and Agriculture Organization – FAO. Nor do they derive from the World Bank or the development program of the UN, UNDP, but from an Ethiopian research institute controlled by the government of the same person [Meles Zenawi], who receives the [Yara] award for his extraordinary contribution to fight hunger in the country."
EthioMedia continues:"But for the 15-year-old government of Meles Zenawi whose staple diet has been media manipulation and misinformation, all is OK and the economy is a horse galloping mightier than ever before." Here is the actual article that has to be seen to be believed Research Confirms Ethiopia's High Growth
Addis Ababa – Independent research has confirmed that Ethiopia’s growth recent growth activity has been remarkable.

Ethiopia has managed an average GDP growth of seven percent over the past three years and brought inflation down from 15 percent to five percent. The figures, which are the most impressive amongst the six African countries striving to attain the millennium development goals (MDGs) and this has resulted in sceptics as to the accuracy of the figures.

However, research compiled by the African Development Bank (ADB), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and the World Food Programme (WFP) has confirmed the country’s noteworthy growth.

Researchers have linked the growth to government’s role in diversifying the economy away from agriculture while searching for new markets.

The government said that growth would remain sustainable as it increases partnership between agriculture and industry sectors.
EthioMedia has it right. The story is plain silly.

First of all whose independent research? It is highly unusual to make a claim like that, then attribute it to 'independent research' without naming that think tank or agency or academic institution. That is unless it is all made up or the information originates from the government in question itself.

Second, the names of several agencies are thrown in to give credence to the whole business. Those agencies don't say what they are accused of and those that have agreed with the government in the past generally accept its numbers at face value in public to keep the peace and have their own real set for in house use or available to those with minimal curiousity in open documents.

Third, every mention you ever hear about 'sustainable development' is suspect as is unexplained catch phrases like diversifying the economy, searching for new markets and linking agriculture and industry. What does it all mean anyway? A country either develops or it doesn't.

What is unsustainable is the litany of economic lies and eternal beggar status that goes hand in hand with it. Economists and politicians would like us to believe that like interpreting modern art, economics is some arcane subject that can only be approached by its own exclusive language that common ears could never hope to understand.

That is wrong. If you are talking about Econ 101 and M for money supply and a whole lot of equations it is complicated. But like most of life its core is good old fashioned simple common sense.

Countries with no private property rights do not develop. Look around the globe, find the countries where the state owns all land (meaning a tiny feudal aristocracy really does) and you will find poverty and dictatorship. Find states that have moved in the right direction or that have always had property rights and you will find development and relative plenty and freedom.

Countries where the ruling party is indistinguishable from the government and from businesses and monopolies owned by both and by cronies don't develop. That is built in corruption that makes Ethiopia one of the least favorite destinations for capital on earth.

Countries that are eternal international beggars do not develop. What ends up being created is a social contract between corrupt dictators and donor governments with NGOs as junior partners. The actual natives are not included and development becomes measured by dollars spent only. The basics of actual development as witnessed from China to Botswana are dependent not on what anyone was given but what they were allowed to do for themselves.

All of this nonsense along with a suspiciously incurious press make for a grand effort to get at the wallets of donor taxpayers and for eternal fangs to remain to sunk into the arteries of poor folk who only need a chance, just like that given the rest of humanity, that they have so far been denied.

The government lies on this issue like it always does on everything else big and small. Indeed lying is a reflex for the regime since the truth beyond their own day to day power and enrichment is generally inconvenient. The only straightforward part of the article was the mention of the MDG which is the gold ring for the rulers of countries made poor by their governments - especially ones like that in Addis whose atrocious human rights record has put them in line to lose donor budget support.

Essentially, the MDG boils down to a firm belief that institutions, accountability, transparency, fighting corruption and property rights don't matter for the likes of Ethiopians - although that is the kind of stuff that made donor nations rich and most other poorer nations actually grow.

The whole MDG theory is to throw so much money at Meles Inc. that even it can't manage to steal it all and that at least some good can be done for all those quiet suffering millions.

Ethiopia's revolutionary / feudal / party / government OWNS the economy of a whole country, OWNS every square meter of land and strives to OWN every soul there while seeing its people as convenient sources of pity to get foreign aid and as sources of trouble to be put down.

Meles Inc. is unlikely to oblige even the reduced expectations of the MDG crowd. Those MDG people have no idea who they are dealing with do they? Ethiopians do.


related posts of note

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

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

The 7% Maskirovka details how claims of economic growth are lies carried out with the complicity of willingly gullible partners in the international media and aid organizations. The 7% Solution looks into the particular origins of the claims to 7% growth - that is what is supposed to happen to get MDG money so by pretending it is not needed the flow of money is assured.

Economic Absurdities details how all accounts of Ethiopia's economic performance must not be considered at face value and that the economy is in fact a stagnant mess utterly dependent of foreign aid and remittances.

lies, damn lies & statistics re-examines false claims of high Foreign Direct Investment that are part of the ongoing and defining propaganda campaign that the Ethiopian government runs instead of governing the country.

The Tragedy of the Commons discusses how common or far worse government ownership of land has always been a plan for disaster.

Cargo Cult Economics Pretense of freedom and a free market is alive and well in Ethiopia with absolutely no attention given to the institutions and accountability necessary for free and prosperous nations. The whole edifice of the massive money transfer to Swiss banks (aka MDGs) is like the Pacific Cargo Cults based on the idea that prosperity comes from rituals.

Cargo Cult Economics 2 - All About the Benjamins? Development is about more than cash - it is about institutions. In fact any money in the absence of reason and rationality will hurt more than help by breeding corruption and the destruction of needed institutions.

Cargo Cult Economics 3 - Structural Corruption Corrupt and unaccountable party and government owned businesses and monopoly service providers in an effectively single party state do not provide a setting where you can expect freedom and prosperity or accountability.

Cargo Cult Economics 4 - Short Term Memory Recent African history from the era of independence in the late 50s and 60s on is full of the serial discovery of visionary rennaissance leaders that the world has fallen in love but whose policies have only bought tragedy for their people.

Cargo Cult Economics 5 - Cheerleaders and Cargo Cult Economics 6 - Sachs & Violence Intellectuals and academics who give cover and encouragement to third world despots and their bound to fail economic schemes imagine that it is OK for some to live under different rules than they would expect for themselves. That is an example of the vile sentiment of actual romance and purpose that is found by some in other people's suffering.

The World Is Yours Is an introduction to anothers series from numerous sources detailing the essentially corrupt system that Ethiopians suffer under. A system that simultaneously wastes billions in aid dollars and euros while impoverishing millions:. Basically, the Ethiopian government at present is difficult to distinguish from an organized crime network. The World Is Yours II - The Syndicate, The World Is Yours III - The Commission, The World Is Yours IV - "An Offer They Can't Refuse", The World Is Yours V - Capo di tutti Capi, The World Is Yours VI - Our Thing

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

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

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

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

Politburo Knows Best III - Revolutionary Democracy The national guiding ideology is still Marxist-Leninist-Maoism - so you can assume there aren't great prospects for freedom and prosperity. Since about the time this seminal essay ;-) was posted the government has not mentioned Revolutionary Democracy aloud again but it still defines their world view exactly.

Politburo Knows Best IV - Revolutionary Feudalism There are no rights to own private property whose protection is essential to all prosperity and personal & political rights worldwide throughout any period of history.

Politburo Knows Best V - The Wretched of the Earth Ethiopia's system of tribal divide and rule 'bantustans' has more in common with medieval feudalism than anything modern or decent for humans to live under.

Politburo Knows Best VI - Defending the Revolution An intense system of of control inherited from the Communist Dergue of Mengistu (known in Cuba as 'Committees to Defend the Revolution') exert absolute government control and fear at the lowest (neighborhood or block) level in unseen rural areas (85% of the people) and urban lives as well.

A Bodyguard of Lies looks at the art of untruth and Ethiopian government in the bloody aftermath of the 'election'.

Friday, April 21

The Adventures of Addis Ferengi & the Desperate Dance for Donors

The Adventures of Addis Ferengi

The Ethiopian Politics Blog has a an interview with blogger Addis Ferengi ... and we loved every second of it.

The interviewer, leads the blogger through 18 minutes of questions and answers that are a glimpse into the mind's eye of a fascinating and literally brave woman.

You see ... the whole purpose of Ethiopian government is dedicated to staying in power as long as possible and for that purpose to get ferenjis to pay for that rule. Part of that is convincing them that reality is not connected in anyway to what they actually see in Ethiopia.

Unlike Ethiopians who are there simply to follow orders and to serve, ferenjis are the real constituents of government in a perverse social contract that has frozen out all but a tiny few kleptocratic feudal aristocrats and the ferenjis who cater to them.

But Ms. Addis Ferengi wasn't having any of that nonsense.

She speaks of the process of how she came to know and feel for the country, the realization of what kind of government it really had and the massive risks that friends and the opposition took to provide her with information.

She states at one point that before her expulsion she was the only free voice in the country. She is right. Think about it - not only has the government totally taken over or banned all Ethiopian free press it has jailed journalists and charged them with crimes punishable by death.

Every journalist or news source free to operate out of Ethiopia today is either owned by or at least dedicated to putting the best possible face on Meles Inc. The government is actively trying to intimidate, infiltrate and silence diaspora voices and has even set up a community of ever so subtle fake blogs.

At the very least all foreign journalists know very well that they are only one truth away from deportation. Certainly like Addis Ferengji was, all are followed and monitored in any conceivable way and their work is a dedicated matter of careful maneuvering around restrictions to find news.

Foreign journalists passing through Ethiopia or those dependent on what passes for news from allowed sources there go on about trivialities like orphaned cheetahs and idiocies like how Ethiopia is about to join the ranks of middle income countries ... if only the government gets tens of billions more in cash to steal at least some of that is bound to end up helping poor folks ... even if by mistake.

But Ms. Addis Ferengi wasn't having any of that nonsense.

Except for Anna Gomez, this blogger is the first ferenji to so GET and so articulate what this government is all about. Actually ... let us qualify that statement ... we think thousands of ferenjis living and passing through do GET it all very well but a host of political & personal interests, very low expectations and professional complicity with the government keep them quiet.

After all most ferenjis are dependent on the government. Diplomats and aid workers all are graded by how well they get along with the native dictator. They are not graded on a curve either. Noticing that the local government is not nice to the locals or that it is stealing all the aid money necessitates action that can only be taken if the whole diplomatic or aid mission is put into question.

Ms. Addis Ferengi gives Ethiopians an altogether rare form of respect based on her innocent assumption that just like all other human beings - Ethiopians don't deserve to be ruled by despots and that they can do better than have leaders whose proudest achievement is permanent international beggar status.

But this post was supposed to be about what Addis Ferengi had to say so you should listen to her - here is the 18 minute interview in mp3. and here it is in Windows Media.

One disturbing part of all of this is the virtual blackout of things Ethiopian before the world. It seems at times like Ethiopia exists in some best forgotten twilight zone to the rest of humanity where the normal rules of freedom, civilized government or a decent future somehow don't apply.

If this story had happened to such a woman (with that voice!) with a family who was so moved by her conscience that she acted as a lone voice of truth ... in any other country with a dictatorship like Ethiopia's ... she would be all over the media from the BBC to Oprah.

In fact she would need bodyguards to protect her from all the Hollywood agents trying to buy her story.


The Desperate Donor Dancers

It is amazing (tragic is the right word) how Ethiopians, who fought for milennia to be free are in the 21st century in the grips of a government that only cares what foreigners think of it. That is why EU reports, foreign journalists and the like matter so much. They are all the government listens to so they have become the audience for protest as well.

Meles has chosen international begging rather than letting Ethiopians develop like billions of earthlings have done or are doing around the world because that might lead to independent forces and unapproved thought that would someday threaten his power.

His part in this tragedy is balancing a foot on Ethiopia's collective neck while shuffling and dancing for foreign donors to hand over money in the hope that some of it that somehow slips through his kleptocracy will get to the right places after all.

Take this bit from the Washington Times Ethiopia's Complaint:
The top diplomat at the Ethiopian Embassy is desperately trying to persuade Congress to defeat a bill he said is inspired by "rogue elements" in the country's political opposition.

Fesseha Asghedom Tessema, the charge d'affaires, complained that the bill sponsored by Rep. Christopher H. Smith, New Jersey Republican, would punish Ethiopia just as it is developing a genuine multiparty democracy. Mr. Smith argues that Ethiopia's ruling party is responsible for human rights abuses and political corruption.
For a typically wry and informative view of the hearings along with appropriate links to testimony we suggest Weichegud here here here and here.

Suffice it to say that the whole performance of the Ethiopian government is desperate and embarassing - but you know what? It may work. After all the same bunch convinced the entire free world for the past fifteen years that Meles Inc. was actually an innocent sewing circle of proto-liberal democratic free market loving allies.

Never underestimate the gullibility and short attention span of the world press, politicians, their penchant for dealing with whoever happens to be in charge (i.e. whoever has all the guns) and the power of low expectations.

Having said all that the Congressman who sponsored and voted for this measure are notable for noticing and thinking Ethiopians deserve better. Even the State Department said "Ethiopia is currently at crossroads, which means it can continue to move forward or it can lapse into the sort of government that is best encountered in the history books."

Meles Inc. and its corporate representatives in America (aka diplomats), cadres, weak willed fellow travellers and millions of dollars worth of lawyers and lobbyists are all doing the desperate dance right now. Without money and support from countries whose government's have domestic policies about as opposite from Ethiopia's as is possible, Meles Inc. would have to listen to Ethiopians for a change or be replaced by the opposition that actually won an election.

To our knowledge - given the dozens of governments in recent history that have been testified about or sanctioned or ignored in Congress no other government has so desperately and pitifully begged for Congressional approval like this.

Why? Because the Ethiopian government doesn't depend on Ethiopians to rule but it does depend on foreigners who actually take care of Ethiopians while fattening the rulers up.

We have often written about the library of government lies on a variety of subjects. In The 7% Solution and the 7% Maskirovka we looked at recent lies designed to prime the pump for Millenium Development Goals / Cargo Cult cash money cow. Thus the government pretended to already be meeting the MDG goals so that aid would seem to be working so rivers of aid could follow. The 7% growth number was pulled straight out of an IMF report on what should be expected so Meles Inc. just made it up.

Here are two more 'news' pieces in the very same vein: Ethiopia designs plan to achieve Millennium Development Goals - there is literally no substance in this article at all. Platitudes, vague plans and a mention of the potential billions of the MDG is about it. Perhaps health care is so poor because the government is a kleptocratic dictatorship with no free market and no freedom and no property rights?

Ethiopia pays due attention to education: minister is also about nothing at all -
the regional states also allocated up to 40 percent of their annual budget for the same purpose.

"Ethiopia will realize the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to see all school-age children get access to quality primary education by the year 2015".
How much of that 40% is not already paying for state of the art Russian fighter planes, not financing security forces, not going into select private foreign investments and not subject to consumption by a corrupt system of inseperable goverment / party / crony businesses? How much of it is assuming that EU budget support continues?

Will anybody ever check on this? The word of the Ethiopian government is poor proof that the earth revolves around the sun and not vice versa.

The 40% number like the 7% one above is just made up anyway. One might even ask why 40% wasn't being spent this way for the past 15 years if all it took was a government decision to make it happen. Like every bit of reality according to the Ethiopian government this is another lie designed to get at the money of Western taxpayer's by pretending to be something they are not.

One last example of this river of lies: Ethiopia plans strategy aiming at raising per capita in five years
It was planned to raise the volume agricultural production from 57 million quintals in 1996/97-crop season to 130 million quintals in 2002 [Ethiopian years].

A five-year strategic plan aimed at raising per capita from existing 920 Birr to 1,129 Birr in Amhara State, according to the plan tabled for discussion.

In was indicated in the Plan formulated by the State Finance and Economic Development Bureau that ensuring food security and avoiding dependency syndrome, among others, would help achieve the desired goal, the Ethiopian News Agency (ENA) reported.
This will supposedly include access to healthcare and telephone access. No one says HOW this will be done. No one says WHO will be paying for it. No one says WHAT policies will change to bring this all about.

If it was all just a matter of a government announcement having the power of a miracle then Ethiopia would be a paradise. To the government just announcing something is the functional equivalent of having it already happen - and such is the point of view of much of the world press and international community as well.

All critical faculty and common sense seems to leave people when they read things like this. It is all lies.


Signed, sealed, delivered

The community of Western donors has helped set up a perverse civil contract in Ethiopia between Meles and themselves. Ethiopians have never approved and indeed have nothing to do with it.

Some regimes get away with this kind of perverse civil contract when it is between themselves and billions of barrels of oil underground. Those like Ethiopia's rulers hold their people hostage and every drop of blood, sweat and tears translates into cold hard cash from abroad.

Meles Inc. is a wholly owned subsidiary of short sighted Western foreign policy and dreams of how money can improve anything where there are no institutions and accountability. Those dreams are nightmares for Ethiopians.

So ferenjis of the world, he is yours after all - signed sealed and delivered - you approved of him, you paid for him and you own him - now please take delivery somewhere else. Give Meles and his cronies a nice place to live in some gated community in Geneva or Montana so he can live well and leave Ethiopians the hell alone - or at least just don't support him.

We reject conspiracy theories in this - after all every nation follows its self interest but in the long run yours is with a free Ethiopia. The only reason that the regime has even a veneer of civilization about it is genuine Western concern for human rights.

We know of any truth from Ethiopia because of the space created by donors and the occasional decent use they make of their influence. That is why Addis Ferengi lasted as long as she did and why there are only tens of thousands in prison camps instead of millions in slave labor camps.

So ferenjis of the world, we know you have enjoyed the Desperate Dance for Donors but you can't escape noticing that it is being performed on top of real people.

Wednesday, April 19


If we go, we shall slam the door on an empty house.
Lenin's vision of a Russia without him in absolute control.
Ethiopia will have to be ruled through Revolutionary Democracy. Otherwise because of the extraordinary circumstance relating to nationalities, it will face disintegration in no time.
The prediction of Meles of an Ethiopia without him in absolute control.

The open and implied apocalyptic threats of the assumptions above is not coincidental. In Ethiopia the threat of ethnic bloodletting is an immediate one because tribal divide and rule has been the main instrument of Politburo will to power as expressed through manipulated tribal enmity and a system of feudal bantustans.

Both predictions above are threats.

Convenient accusations and natural assumptions of universal corruption are just convenient and natural excuses for ongoing brutality to remain in power at all costs.

The government generally doesn't care what Ethiopians think but it does care what they say and do. The main audiences for the threats above are Tigrayans who are being told their only hope is Meles Inc. which hopes to buy their loyalty with fear of the government's own policies. It hasn't worked on Tigrayans and their fellow Ethiopians and it never will.

The other intended audience is ferenjis whose low expectations of Ethiopia are cherished and fertilized by Meles. The only one who can keep that lot in anything resembling order is him alone you see. That bit has worked, primarily in London and Washington, resulting in nose holding embraces of Ethiopia's politburo.

That is the root of Ethiopia's current fake federation and tribal bantustans. The purpose is to present any critic or opponent with a Sword of Damocles dilemma over the heads of Ethiopians and the world. Never mind that Meles himself tried to put it there himself.

He has attempted to set up a nation that can't survive without the extra-legal manipulations of his cronies and party. Because, left alone the structure set up by his constitution will spin apart in chaos.

That is the plan and the scare anyway ... why don't we take a look at its roots ...

Lenin, Stalin & Meles. Mengistu's picture would be included here but he lost the battle to see who would rule Ethiopia: military junta communism or vanguard party tribal communism.
"Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it." is about as cliched as wisdom gets. But ... that does not mean it is not wisdom. In Ethiopia official tribal government under a false banner of ethnic federalism is everyday used to divide and rule. The roots of Ethiopia's brand of official tribalism are rooted in history and in Marxist-Leninist-Stalinism.

The more dictators go on about how much love they have for 'the people' the more likely they are to treat them all very badly. In the very same vein, the more dictators go on about 'self determination & ethnicity' the more likely they are to treat them all very badly as well.

Like everything this type of dictator says it is all about power in the end. It is far less but also about self justification to those who manage to listen to those excuses over all the resultant screaming and crying of the beloved people.

There are no coincidences in the words of the men below being presented in the same place. Each had some variety of parliament, press, courts and democracy that simulated those of civilized governments everywhere but only covered up raw power.

Only because his team ended up on the rubbish heap of history, Ethiopia's PM has had to pretend to be something else - but it is clear what Revolutionary Democracy is even if its current priesthood is too careful to talk about it in English anymore.

The only difference is that while Lenin and Stalin could finance their despotism largely from internal sources, Revolutionary Democracy is so efficient at creating mass poverty and suffering that finance had to come from abroad. All who had and were willing to finance Ethiopia's dictatorship insisted on some minimal level of decency in human rights that this government never met but few abroad acknowledged until now.

Lenin and Stalin would certainly understand the predicament their heir Meles is in and somewhere in the deepest circles of hell they are certainly glad that when they reigned the times were friendlier to their ilk.

Ethiopia today is what happens when dictators repeat the very worst bits of history on purpose. All of the concern for 'the people' was and is to justify eternal rule and all of the concern for 'nationalities' was and is to justify eternal rule as well.

The purpose was to weaken any force in society, traditional or otherwise, that could threaten their rule. Thus, everything before them was illegitimate until they brought the light of their ideology to mankind. From all three of these goodfellas that light was more of a blowtorch.

Meles Zenawi's Ethiopian Constitution's Article 39 - Rights of Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples
Every Nation, Nationality and People in Ethiopia has an unconditional right to self-determination, including the right to secession.
Lenin on The Right of Nations to Self-Determination
the proletariat, of Russia is faced with a twofold or, rather, a two-sided task: to combat nationalism of every kind, above all, Great-Russian nationalism; to recognise, not only fully equal rights, for all nations in general, but also equality of rights as regards polity, i.e., the right of nations to self-determination, to secession.
Stalin's "only significant contribution to the development of the Marxist theory at this time was a treatise, written while he was briefly in exile in Vienna, Marxism and the National Question. It presents an orthodox Marxist position on this important debate. This treatise may have contributed to his appointment as People's Commissar for Nationalities Affairs after the revolution"
The right of self-determination means that a nation may arrange its life in the way it wishes. It has the right to arrange its life on the basis of autonomy. It has the right to enter into federal relations with other nations. It has the right to complete secession. Nations are sovereign, and all nations have equal rights.
Such atavistic ties to ethnicity and ideology serve only the cause of power. The Ethiopian Constitution reflects that atavism as does the whole of a decade and a half of Ethiopian governance of the country.

ethiopundit is not denying the importance of ethnicity. It is a profound and necessarily respected aspect of every person. However, that aspect of identity is more often than not manipulated for selfish ends with the classic aim of divide and rule.

By falsely wrapping themselves in a tribal mantle ethnic politicians seek to protect themselves from legitimate opposition. Thus involuntary enmities and artificial loyalties against self interest are manufactured. Ethnic politics does serve the interests of a very few whose security in power trumps all other considerations.

To paraphrase Samuel Johnson - for the Ethiopian rulers
ethnicity is the last refuge of a scoundrel.
One thing for Ethiopians and foreigners to be constantly aware of when considering ethnicity in the recent past and present is the minefield set by ethnic opportunists. When ethnic politicians say that their party speaks for a whole people, it is always without the consent of those people.

It is clear that all three not only dealt with any dream of actual secession with brutality but also dealt with any lack of absolute submission with brutality as well. The only difference in Ethiopia is that the government's foreign constituents care more for Ethiopians than their own government does.


Other posts on ethnic divide and rule:

On the Pitfalls of Ethnic Politics
New Jack Country
On the Origins Of The TPLF
Blood, Oil and Ethnic Rule in Gambella
Don't Believe The Hype
In Whose Name?

Monday, April 17

Battle of Adwa 110th Anniversary

A mountain pass in the Adwa region

The 110th anniversary of the Battle of Adwa, March 3, 2006, was commemorated by millions in Ethiopia and 700,000 in the diaspora; symposiums were held at various universities in the US and Canada. In the book ...

Reflections on Ethiopia’s Historic Victory
Against European Colonialism

... Nine scholars analyze the unique Ethiopian victory at Adwa, pondering the factors that brought success, the putative missed opportunities for securing the future integrity of the Ethiopian territory, and the lessons to be learned.

Rising above their regional rivalries and local concerns, all facets of this multi-ethnic society pulled together to defeat the Italian invaders who were armed with vastly more sophisticated technology and had the support of all of Europe.

For the victors it was decisive; for the vanquished, catastrophic. The Italian colonialist soldiers were crushed. Their casualty figure was 70%; all their artillery pieces were captured, one out of four of their generals was taken prisoner and two of the remaining as well as almost half of their staff officers were killed on the battlefield.

The event and its implications have much to say about Ethiopia’s subsequent development, the secession of Eritrea, and relations with external powers. It also reveals much about the machinations of global powers and the dangers they pose to weaker nations, and most specifically international influence in Africa.

The Ethiopian victory at the Battle of Adwa has remained a very important event in the shared recollection of the entire African people. It is the only secular episode in the whole history of Africa that has been celebrated for more than a century with unabated popular enthusiasm.

A phenomenon such as Adwa is a complex nexus of various historical processes with wide ranging but as yet not fully explored meanings. The contributors to this collection show that Adwa not only reflects its time but transcends it, and that the aspirations and meanings that flow from it have been a powerful constitutive force in the rise and evolution of modern Africa. Indeed, it is an event that awakened the hope for emancipation and the struggle against colonialism and racism among Africans in the colonies and in the Diaspora.

The Editors and Contributors

Paulos Milkias, Ph.D. [McGill], is a professor of Humanities and Political Science at Marianopolis College / Concordia University in Montreal, Canada.
email: pmilkias -at-

Getachew Metaferia, Ph.D. [Howard], co-editor, teaches political science and coordinates the graduate program in International Studies at Morgan State University. email: gmetaferia -at-

Richard Pankhurst, Ph.D. has published 36 books and more than 400 scholarly articles. His seminal works, The Economic History of Ethiopia, Cambridge University Press, 1976, and The Ethiopians: a History, Oxford University Press, 2001, are classics in the field.

Zewde Gabra-Selassie, Dejazmach, D.Phil. served as Governor and Mayor of the capital city of Addis Ababa, Minister of Public Works, and in other leadership positions during the reign of Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia. He is also a distinguished African historian and is the author of many works including Yohannes IV - Political Biography, Oxford University Press – 1975; and Eritrea–Ethiopia, In the context of the Red Sea and Africa, Washington D.C, Smithsonian Institute, 1976.

Negussay Ayele Ph.D. a former Ethiopian Ambassador to Scandinavia, is Professor of Political Science and International Relations. He teaches for the Bunche Center for African-American Studies and for the Honors Collegium at the University of California in Los Angeles.

Harold Marcus Ph.D. was Distinguished Professor of History at Michigan State University. He was the founding editor of the refereed journal Northeast African Studies; he is perhaps best known for his biographies of Emperors Menelik II and Haile Selassie I, and his textbook History of Ethiopia [Oxford University Press].

Theodore M. Vestal, Ph.D. is professor of political science and international studies at Oklahoma State University. He holds degrees from Yale Law School, Harvard, and Stanford University. His books include Ethiopia: A Post Cold War African State, Praeger, 1999.

Maimire Mennasemay, Ph.D. teaches in the humanities/philosophy department of Dawson College, Montreal, Canada and is a fellow of the Center for Developing-Area Studies (CDAS) of McGill University.

Mesfin Araya Associate Professor of African Studies at York College/ City University of New York, where he is Head of African-American Studies. He has produced numerous scholarly works on Ethiopia and Eritrea, from a political science perspective; his next book analyzes Eritrean nationalism.

Get the Book online from B& or

Or order from Algora Publishing
222 Riverside Drive, 16th Floor
New York, NY 10025-6809
Tel. (212) 678-0232
Fax (212) 666-3682
email: editors - at-

Saturday, April 15

21 months and counting ...

We are oft 'encouraged' by a variety of carefully planned means both subtle and crude not to write this blog - or to change its subject matter - or its tone. We will not do so under any circumstances.

Indeed, we are ever more certain that our occasional efforts on these pages matter. While tens of millions are desperate hostages and tens of thousands are tortured captives the least we can do is post an essay every now and then.

Tom Wolfe's latest novel starts with this passage ostensibly describing a young psychologist's work
After Victor Starling removes the amygdala from the brains of some test animals, the cats "veer helplessly from one inappropriate affect to another, boredom where there should be fear, cringing where there should be preening, sexual arousal where there was nothing that would stimulate an intact animal."

After weeks of observing these animals, Starling invites a colleague into his lab, and one cat suddenly starts to thrust violently, sexually, against this newcomer's leather shoe. Just what one would expect -- until the visitor points out that the cat trying to mount his wingtip is one of the normal control animals. At this juncture, the biographical note informs us, Victor Starling makes the discovery that ultimately earns him a Nobel Prize:

"The control cats had been able to watch the amygdalectomized cats from their cages. Over a period of weeks they had become so thoroughly steeped in an environment of hypermanic sexual obsession that behavior induced surgically in the amygdalectomized cats had been induced in the controls without any intervention whatsoever. Starling had discovered that a strong social, or 'cultural' atmosphere, even as abnormal as this one, could in time overwhelm the genetically determined responses of perfectly, normal healthy animals."
Intact human beings should know better than cats but they often don't. This passage describes with remarkable accuracy what two generations of vicious totalitarian zero-sum politics have done to the originally weak and those made weak by circumstance in Ethiopia.

When discussion of politics is a matter of death, betrayal, bribery, submission, intrigue, obsessive schadenfreude, priviledge and insincerity in a world of enforced lies it is no wonder that the morality and culture of cadres spreads like a disease or is kept alive abroad like a cherished tradition.

The opposition leaders in prison, all those in prison camps and millions all over the country have had enough of that essentially corrupt culture of just getting along with power for the sake of flattery, money, property or the simple feeble empowerment of not being in the line of fire.

Andrei Sakharov put it best:
Homo Sovieticus is like the prostitute who believes that all women are whores because she is. Soviet man believes that the whole world is divided into parties and that every man is a member of one party or another, and that there is no real honesty. No one stands for the truth. And if anyone says he is above Party and is trying to speak the truth alone, he is lying.
Like we already said, the least we can do is write.

Thursday, April 13

The World Is Yours VI - Our Thing

So the next day, my father went to see him; only this time with Luca Brasi. And within an hour, he signed a release, for a certified check for $1000 ... My father made him an offer he couldn't refuse ... Luca Brasi held a gun to his head and my father assured him that either his brains, or his signature, would be on the contract.

Michael Corleone's fiance meets the family
and gets an MBA level tutorial on how thugs conduct business. From The Godfather, image.


Opposition leader Merera Gudina on the 'election':
"The EPRDF would not give into defeat because without the power all its investments and luxurious life would be at risk."

With the kind permission of the author, we are serializing some selections from this remarkable article “The Great Purge and Ideological Paradox in Contemporary Ethiopian Politics” by Professor Paulos Milkias (copyright 2001). The author examines in detail the history of contemporary Ethiopia and of her ruling party. This section is concerned with the economy of Revolutionary Democracy.

One point to remember always is the essentially corrupt worldview of tribal divide and rule cherished by the government. The TPLF and Meles Inc. serve the interests of the Tigrayan people just about as much as the EPRDF serves the interests of all Ethiopians. Keep in mind that despite the insidious efforts of the Politburo to associate its activities with the good name of Tigrayans it is clear that a very few permanent professional feudal revolutionaries rule for their own benefit - NOT that of Tigrayans in general - whose potential estrangement from other Ethiopians they are dedicated to. More on this in the post In Whose Name?.


“New Free Enterprise” within “New Democratic Revolution”

When on May 28, 1991, the Ethiopian Peoples Revolutionary Democratic Front [EPRDF] which was under the control of the Tigray People's Liberation Front, came to power, the government that was created was first provisional and then transitional. A Federal Republic replaced that in August 1995.

Under the Derg, private business was treated like in all other Communist states; it was very limited and whatever was allowed to function was in a very limited sector of the economy. Since coming to power, the EPRDF had abrogated most of the legislation restricting private business. But that is as far as legislation goes.

Mr. Meles' government claims that it emulates the practices of Western parties. It is clear that political parties in the West do not run their own private businesses. Yet, a large sector of the economoy in Ethiopian is controlled by the governing EPRDF.

The technique is to control the major economic life of the country through party NGO"s and foundations or individuals belonging to the EPRDF holding shares in companies that are indirectly controlled by the EPRDF. The managers and shareholders of these conglomerates are intertwined and the TPLF is the major holder and beneficiary in all this. Mr. Meles explains this:

At present, there are four foundation enterprises under the umbrella of the EPRDF. Some of these enterprises arose during the period of armed struggle. Their purpose was to finance the movement.

Despite official denials, economic advantages such as credit facilities and contracts are diverted to them. It is due to this fact that the EPRDF companies have so far been able to accumulate capital and have grown much faster than private enterprises since the change of policy in August, 1991.

Ethiopian economists who are familiar with the current state of affairs are of the opinion that if the trend continues and the EPRDF persists in controlling the Ethiopian state by frustrating the possibility of other parties coming to power, all the lucrative sectors of production such as trade, services and transport will go under the hegemony of the EPRDF.

The asset of EFFORT is definitely augmented by foreign donor capital. According to a TPLF veteran and one of the first leaders of the TPLF as early as 1978, the leadership had, against his opposition, allocated only 5% of the U.S.$100,000,000 relief aid to combat drought and Famine in Tigray, the rest going to the TPLF organization. Their revenues came from NGO contributions aimed at feeding the starving peasant masses of Tigray. This is not denied by the PM:

Many [TPLF enterprises] accumulated extensive capital from diverse sources including relief aid given by NGO's and foreign governments to feed famine victims. The funds were slated for buying arms for the TPLF's guerrilla organization with over 100,000 fighters and ultimately to be invested in its enterprises. Whereas the base of the capital of these enterprises is this, they have also since increased their revenue through investment in development projects.

The other sources of TPLF companies before the TPLF came to power in Ethiopia are tax collection from the areas they controlled and from contributions by party members and sympathizers in the name of developing and running Tigray as a potential independent republic; enforced taxation in the form of donations from individuals including the Tigray members of the army usually at public meetings; spoils of war obtained from the Derg government; treasury heist including the appropriation of cash deposits in banks, public institutions, development projects and military institutions after taking over a district or town or by carrying out carefully planned raid; keeping income from exchange transaction of REST with NGO's or governments that are not reported to the donors; obtaining income through fiddling with the internal purchase program operated by REST with international subsidies which includes deceptively selling grain already held by the TPLF to REST with its own members posing in front of the representatives of the international donors as civilian grain wholesalers; sale in Sudan of surplus food aid in the form of grain stocks by falsifying the number of persons in TPLF controlled areas that are in need of food aid; generating income by running TPLF-owned garages in the Sudan; earning income from many different types of TPLF businesses in Sudan, in Tigray and in other countries; appropriating refunds paid by international donors for costs of internal relief aid transport; making income from rural credit scheme which was set up with funds from International donors; raising revenue by handling the credit scheme for fertiliser.

At first the major front of the TPLF’s conglomerate was Relief Society of Tigray [REST] which, to solicit support from donor NGO"s, was officially treated as NGO independent of the party but was in reality the TPLF’s major money making organ and was run by a Central Committee member. By manipulating figures, [for example highly inflating the number of the population living in an area,] and transferring money to party coffers and by controlling a fleet of trucks donated to transport food to draught and famine stricken regions, REST became extremely powerful.

That the TPLF still continues to collect money from many of the above sources is undeniable. However, because it now militarily controls the entire Ethiopia, it is in a position to use state power to gain even more money from additional untapped sources. Thus, since coming to power in 1991, the TPLF made substantial amounts of direct transfers of funds from government accounts to its own in payment for services it claimed for TPLF-institutions.

Also, when it entered central and southern Ethiopia for the first time after May 28, 1991, it engaged in appropriating cash deposits it found in public institutions. It took possession of customs levied at EPRDF-manned checkpoints as reimbursement for non-specified EPRDF-expenditure. A careful look shows that on the whole, the TPLF saved its own organization's cash by financing its own expenditures out of public funds.

REST was helpful to the TPLF in more ways than one. It enabled it use surplus food to feed its army; it helped it to control the peasants that formed its grassroots supplier of manpower and information; it helped it to gain legitimacy among the population; it enabled it to use food as a weapon of rewarding supporters and penalizing those who refused to cooperate.

In general, it was one factor that enabled it to survive as a guerrilla force and to ultimately triumph over Derg forces. After the TPLF took over power in Ethiopia, REST provided the base of the capital of EFFORT. In 1989, the Tigray Development Association, just like its predecessor, REST, was presented as an NGO. Legally, it has been created as being independent of the state but is in reality it an auxiliary organ of the TPLF.

The TDA was launched with the support of TPLF members at home and abroad. Its aim was to bring about rapid rehabilitation and development to Tigray.

REST owned a considerable amount of cash at the end of the war whereas the financial assets of TDA were still quite small. However, within the favourable context created by the take-over of power in Ethiopia by the TPLF-controlled EPRDF both Para-NGOs received large infusions of cash from various sources. In the last decade, the two organizations increased their capital through TPLF backed fund-raising campaigns in the case of TDA and funding by Governmental aid Organizations and NGO"s in the case of REST.

Several organizations that work as fronts for the above two foundations run restaurants in Mekele and other places. Dedebit Credit and Savings Institution was created as branch plants particularly with funds from REST that is now the major shareholder.

MEGA Communication, SUR Construction and GUNA Trading are the earliest among such front companies belonging to and run by the TPLF party. Offshoots of these also appear among which are AFRICA Insurance and ADDIS Engineering Consultancy. GUNA itself took over the major shares of UNITED Insurance with its General Manager becoming a member of its the Board of Directors.

In addition, SELAM Busline and SEGEN Construction, were established the exclusive shareholder of the company being TDA. REST also took over the majority of shares of DEDEBIT Credit and Savings Institution SC in 1997. The leading branches of REST and TDA, namely, Tigray Women’s" Association [TWA,] directed by a high profile TPLF official. Senior Cadres lead both and the government of Tigray has become minority shareholders of Debebit Credit.

In 1995 the “Tekal Egri Metkal Tegaru” [TEMT] [English: Endowment Fund for the Rehabilitation of Tigray (EFFORT) was set up as a foundation of non-governmental public charity. In reality, however, EFFORT is totally controlled by the TPLF party more than even REST and TAND because among its initial board of directors were seven TPLF heavyweights.

A law prohibiting political parties from owning businesses was passed in 1994. Before its passage, the assets of the TPLF and the other three members of the EPRDF were transferred to new NGO-style companies [such as EFFORT, ENDEAVOUR, DINSHO AND WENDO] to skirt the law. Nevertheless, the parties continue to control and run them if only in different guise. EFFORT was the biggest party conglomerate created to skirt that law. Senior TPLF officials who are also on its Board of Directors became major shareholders of this new party conglomerate. Its functions are describes as:
a) keeping in trust all the economic resources of the TPLF that was in existence before 1991;
b) employing TPLF property for generating income for the families of those who died fighting during the guerrilla struggle; and; and
c) promoting the industrialisation of Tigray by investing in the production of goods.

Continues next time with notes on sources.


The Prime Minister on economics:
"Unlike in [Western Style] Liberal Democracy, in [Ethiopia’s] “Revolutionary Democracy,” there is no economic area that is outside its preserve. Only available capital and procurable management can limit its investment capacity.
This will be another long series from numerous sources detailing the essentially corrupt system that Ethiopians suffer under. A system that simultaneously wastes billions in aid dollars and euros while impoverishing millions:

The World Is Yours I
The World Is Yours II - The Syndicate
The World Is Yours III - The Commission
The World Is Yours IV - "An Offer They Can't Refuse"
The World Is Yours V - Capo di tutti Capi
The World Is Yours VI - Our Thing
The World Is Yours VII - Wise Guys
The World Is Yours VIII - Don't Hate the Player, Hate the Game
The World is Yours IX -

You get the idea.

Sunday, April 9

They Had So Much Things To Say

Guiltiness (talkin' 'bout guiltiness)
Pressed on their conscience. Oh yeah.
And they live their lives (they live their lives)
On false pretence everyday -
each and everyday. Yeah.

These are the big fish
Who always try to eat down the small fish,
just the small fish.
I tell you what: they would do anything
To materialize their every wish.

Bob Marley, lyrics from Guiltiness, album Exodus.

Poster at Meskel Square concert in 2005.

In 2000 there was a funeral. Twenty five years after his overthrow and murder by the Dergue, the Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie was buried at Addis Ababa's Trinity Cathedral. The Ethiopian government that in turn overthrew the Dergue in 1991 refused the Emperor a state burial and
reviled the [E]mperor's reign describing him as a tyrant who enslaved the peasants by imposing a feudal system.

"Selassie's reign was marked by its brutality and extreme oppression of the Ethiopian peasants," the government said.

The government said it will continue with its efforts to recover money the emperor allegedly deposited in foreign bank accounts.
The Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church was in attendance along with members of Haile Selassie's family and thousands of mourners. The government refused to honor the Emperor in any way.

Fast forward to 2005. On the occasion of Bob Marley's sixtieth birthday a massive concert called Africa Unite is held in Addis Ababa's central Meskel Square with thousands in attendance from all over the world.

This was the EVENT to announce to the whole world how hip Ethiopia's government was and how free, connected and open was the country it had by its grace created. Along with the carefully timed RETURN of the Axum Obelisk this was all prelude to the gift of the ELECTION that was to crown Meles Inc. as the permanent favorite among African Rennaisance Leaders deserving of billions in foreign aid and good press.

It didn't work out that way but a look back is worth it anyway. Official word was that
Bob Marley put Ethiopia on a pedestal and it is in his honour that this festival is going to take place here
with the eager cooperation of the Ethiopian government because
Ethiopia, the spiritual home of Rastafarianism, was chosen by Marley's family to host the official event, and is organised by the Bob Marley Foundation, the UN children's agency, the African Union and others.
Notice reality being spun here by the careful emphasis from the government and from the BBC reporter that Ethiopia was put on a pedestal by Marley and that Ethiopia is the spiritual home of Rastafarianism.

The problem with these finely crafted and neatly nuanced statements is that Rastafarianism is about Ethiopia because Haile Selassie was Ethiopian - it is not the other way around. However deeply Rastafarians may feel about Ethiopia or Ethiopia may feel about Rastafarians, the central figure is always the Emperor. That fact remains whether or not it is convenient from the government's point of view to mention him.

Indeed, the movement's name comes from his royal title and pre-coronation name - Ras Tafari.
The original Rastas drew their inspiration from the philosphies of Marcus Mosiah Garvey (1887-1940), who promoted the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) in the 1920s. The organization's main goal was to unite black people with their rightful homeland, Africa.
After spending nearly a decade in the United States and Great Britain, Garvey returned to Jamaica in 1927, where he spread his political views among the black working class. He assured his followers, "No one knows when the hour of Africa's redemption cometh. It is in the wind. It is coming. One day, like a storm, it will be here." He told blacks to "look to Africa for the crowning of a king to know that your redemption is near."

In 1930, Prince Ras Tafari Makonnen was crowned the new Emperor of Ethiopia. Upon his coronation, he claimed for himself the title of Emperor Haile Selassie (Power of the Trinity) I. This announcement was a monumental event that many blacks in Africa and the Americas saw as the fulfillment of Garvey's prophecy years before. After the crowning of Selassie, the Rastafarian movement gained a following and officially began.
Many Rastafarians still refuse to accept that the Emperor could die and revere him as a living diety. Bob Marley was the most popular practitioner of Reggae music that grew out of Rastafarianism.

So how did Marley's sixtieth birhday come to be celebrated with no mention of the man that inspired Marley and whom he glorified with his life and abundant talents? Probably because if the Emperor had taken centerstage with Bob, the Ethiopian government would have been displeased - and they probably made this point clear to organizers.

That might have meant admitting that he was not an incarnation of evil - even in the presence of paying foreigners and curious reporters that could simply not be done. It might raise too many issues.

Such as the reality that
----peasants today have no right to own land and are indeed eternal serfs of an effective one party feudal state with no chance of a change.
----brutality and oppression of peasants is a hallmark of current government whose human rights record is no longer favorable in comparison to the Dergue.
----more than thrity years on there is no hint of any foreign bank accounts of any kind with the Emperor's money while structural corruption in Ethiopia today is at an all time historical high.
----that this government holds more unrivaled power and wealth in its hands than any other in the country's history.

We are not arguing here that the Emperor's reign was a Golden Age. However, in comparison to any of his successors it certainly represented several orders of magnitude improvement in the most basic elements of governance.

This man remains at the core of Rastafarianism and should have taken center stage at the concert last year. None of us at ethiopundit are Rastafarians but it is clear that the complicit denial of Haile Selassie was like imagining Christianity without Christ or Buddhism without Buddha.

That the Ethiopian government pretended otherwise is understandable ... after all the comparison makes them look bad. Actually, the current government doesn't always come ahead in comparisons to Mengistu either. That the foreign organizers of 'Africa Unite' thought to separate Ras Tafari from Ethiopia for the sake of a concert venue is not to their credit.

We must assume that Bob Marley would have known better. After all regardless of which government hosted the event for whatever reason - it was exactly governments like Meles Inc. that Marley sung against.

Image of Ras Tafari circa 1923


As if rewriting the history of a whole religion wasn't enough here is one last bit of government spin of the concert on the tribal front. The Rastafarians in Ethiopia seem to have issues with government shared by Ethiopians in general. This insightful Scotland on Sunday article from the reporter behind the Meskel Square blog begins
ETHIOPIA’S tiny Rastafarian community launched a string of bitter protests against the country’s government yesterday, casting a shadow over huge celebrations marking the 60th anniversary of the birth of their Reggae icon Bob Marley.

A list of long-standing grievances, calling for full Ethiopian citizenship and the return of acres of land they claim were given to them by Haile Selassie, their spiritual leader and Ethiopia’s last emperor, was aired by Rastafarian leaders.

The calls struck a jarring note ahead of a huge Bob Marley concert due to take place in the capital Addis Ababa today, part of a month’s worth of "Africa Unite" exhibitions, performances and conferences organised in the Rasta legend’s memory.
We have three main issues. First we want the right to commercially develop front pieces of our land on the main road through Sashamene. Secondly we want the return of the full 200 hectares of land that was given to us. And thirdly there is the issue of citizenship. It is a scandal that we have second or third generation children here in their twenties who are still seen as foreigners.
This is a typical story for all Ethiopians, either they are insecure becasue they can't ever own land anyway or their land was taken away from them while local ethnically based authorities are making all the decisions - in this case commercially developing the most valuable bits. Or they just feel generally hopeless before an unsympathetic government.

Another of the very few articles to go anywhere in search of a back story is from Reuters addresses some of these issues before being spun off from the story by the familiar ethnic misdirection of Ethiopian governance (with some help from official minders?).
Even Rastafarians living in the community of Shashamane, donated to them as a gift by the emperor, complain that members of Ethiopia's Amhara tribe look down on them, or government red tape frustrates their development projects.

"The Amharas, they've got a problem, they're a bit racist themselves," said Jahlisha Israel, head of the Rastafari Nazarite Research Centre in Shashamane.
Notice how the government, which controls every aspect of the Rastararians' lives and of every Ethiopian is somehow being let off the hook in preference for a convenient scapegoat in the form of the whole Amhara tribe.

The Rastafarians live in a region controlled by Oromo ethnic government at the direction of the central government totally dominated by a revolutionary party that claims to represent all Tigrayans while the Haile Selassie himself was both Amahara and Oromo ...

Confusing? No not really ... the problem is Amharas ... right? Actually, the real problem is a government based on ethnic division to begin with that seeks to set Ethiopians against each other and that searches for villiany and blame in categories of its own people numbering millions.

Who knows what the spin will be next time? Who will be the scapegoat and who may be set against them? Oromo, Amhara, Tigray, Gurage, Sidamo, Somali or Rastafarian - all are pawns under great pressure in the Ethiopian government's great game of divide and rule while trashing tradition.

I'n'I nah come to fight flesh and blood,
But spiritual wickedness in 'igh and low places.
So while they fight you down,
Stand firm and give Jah thanks and praises.

'Cos I'n'I no expect to be justified
by the laws of men - by the laws of men.
Oh, true they have found me guilty,
But through - through Jah proved my innocency.

Bob Marley, lyrics from So Much Things to Say, Exodus.

'Flag carrier during the performance by the Marley sons at 'Africa Unite', a concert in Addis Ababa marking Bob Marley's birthday.'


One of the most very offensive notions in current Ethiopian politics that was planted and is most cherished by the regime is the notion that Ethiopia is a random collection of tribes locked in mutual combat that only the EPRDF could force a truce on. Actually, scorn of all those 'Amharas' or hatred of all those 'Tigrayans' or revilement of all those 'Oromos' or of anyone else is music to the ears of Meles Inc.

Tribal divide and rule is what the 'federal' system is all about and along with the kleptocratic excuse for an economy, eternal beggar status and the very nastiest bits of Communism (both atavistic and post-modern) ruthless opportunism of every stripe defines governance today exactly. This government knows that they can only manage to rule a weak and divided Ethiopia so they like to keep things that way as a matter of policy.

Ethiomedia links to a Memorandum on the current situation in Ethiopia from a number of Tigrayan critics of the government. We have made this point often, that Tigrayans are simply the first victims of Meles Inc., and we do so most recently in the post In Whose Name..


Weichegud is back with an excellent take on the recent Congressional Hearings. The links to the individual bits of testimony are fascinating - along with the statements from Foggy Bottom and the Hill, they seem to hint at a shift in American policy - or at least a glance in the right direction.

Satisfy My Soul [ego] has a recipe for disaster that Ethiopians have been force fed for most of a decade and a half now.

Meskel Square is as good as ever.

African Bullets & Honey has some freindly advice for Africans students heading to American colleges.

Architecture & Morality is always engaging.

Booker Rising is simply one of the best.

Tuesday, April 4

The Internet Miracle Development Plan

Meskel Square looks at My Heart's in Accra on "Why TED said no to Bono". Apparently, a conference of top technologists failed to grant Bono's wish to connect every hospital in Ethiopia to the internet because many felt it was not practical and because some "felt increasingly uncomfortable working on an initiative sure to be a feather in the cap of the Zenawi government as the nation’s political freedoms were taken away.".

In the post Red Herrings we discussed the rather silly nature of the original incarnation of this proposal as being entirely impractical. We called it the 'Internet Miracle Development Plan' because "Premier Meles Zenawi said information technology lay at the heart of transforming the impoverished country where millions are dependent on foreign aid."

This from the leader of a country with no private property rights, where the ruling party and interchangeable government owned all the land and the majority of all economic activity from corner kiosks to the lion's share of billions in foreign aid. This new 'get rich quick scheme' in one of the most poorly governed, corrupt and least favorite places to invest in on planet earth.

At the time the Internet Miracle Development Plan was being first discussed the world press reacted in its customary ridiculous fashion with breathless (and brainless) headlines like this Broadband in Ireland lags behind Ethiopia. All because of 'plans to do this or that' - if any such public relations plans over the past 15 years of Revolutionary Democracy had come true Ethiopia would be a paradise today.

Instead it is only a paradise for a few of the permanent feudal revolutionary aristocracy at the top. It is amazing at times how little folks stop to think about government announcements and headlines.

After all, none of this is rocket science. Governments with policies and rhetoric like Ethiopia's have always been founts of misery. It does not matter what they SAY it matters what they DO. Try telling that to most of the international press.


Internet Miracle Development Plan

Ethiopia, one of the lowest users of information technology in the world has signed with Cisco Systems to expand internet service from the current 30,000 users to 500,000 users. 6,200 miles of fiberoptic cable is being laid and the government has invested $40 million in developing internet service.
Premier Meles Zenawi said information technology lay at the heart of transforming the impoverished country where millions are dependent on foreign aid.
"We are fully committed to ensuring that as many of our poor as possible have this weapon that they need to fight poverty at the earliest possible time," Meles told a gathering of government ministers and information technology experts.

"We plan to ensure universal access and Internet connectivity to all the tens of thousands of rural kebeles (districts) of our country over the next two to three years," he said.
"Poverty is rooted in lack of knowledge," he said. "Internet technology is all about the distribution of knowledge."

The prime minister added that information technology could be used for "e-schools," improving governance and e-healthcare. It is launching "schoolnet" which will provide 450 secondary schools around the country with Internet access and will link all regional and district government offices.

"Healthnet" will connect all referral hospitals around the country as the basis for a nationwide tele-medicine infrastructure.

"Not long ago many of us felt that we were too poor to afford to seriously invest in information and communication technology," Meles told government ministers and experts.

"We were convinced that we should invest every penny we have on securing the next meal for our people. We did not believe serious investment in ICT had anything to do with facing the challenges of poverty that kills. Now I think we know better," he added.
These aims, why don't we call them Internet Miracle Development Plans (IMDP) or Internet Development Led Industrialization (IDLI), are certainly admirable ... but as usual we have our two cents to add for consideration.

We wrote a series of posts titled ‘Information De-Evolution’ about the history of information technology and computing in Ethiopia. We concluded that absolute government control had hampered its development at every stage, particularly in terms of hostility to the internet and indifference to telecommunications.

In addition to questioning the governments monopoly role in this realm we wonder if this is the best way to spend the scant resources available for Ethiopia‘s growth. Harsh practice and tightening laws against the free flow of information in all media made us concerned that belated internet expansion was a sign of government confidence that internet use could be reliably managed and monitored.

The murderous communist junta, the Dergue, that ruled for 17 years championed the spread of literacy. That was a good aim in its own right, of course, but literate Ethiopians only had the freedom to read the government's own propaganda and to study endless volumes of the collected speeches of Leonid Brezhnev.

Because of human nature and because of the state of affairs in Ethiopia, widespread access to the internet will necessarily result in harsh words about the government in forums, blogs and other settings as well as exposure to unapproved sources of information. Today, even severely restricted freedom of the press only exists in places like Addis Ababa where a nice impression has to be made for foreign aid donors.

Knowledge is certainly a factor in poverty but even a nation where every citizen had an advanced university degree would be bitterly poor without ideas, policies, and institutions friendly to development. They would be in particular trouble if their rulers also made every effort to maintain rule by creating suspicion between groups - those who studied liberal arts against the engineers versus the scientists - a sort of official academic federal tribalism if you will.

The sudden discovery that information technology will usher in an age of plenty without the requirements of development such as private property rights, a friendly atmosphere for investment, political accountability and a free market economy must be viewed with a very jaded eye.


Teachers as DJs?

No country has ever escaped or improved on the litany of third world misery without those and other basic factors that are lacking in Ethiopia because of political and ideological decisions. Let us take a look at a previous gold plated venture into technological solutions to simple problems.

Meskel Square reported on a visit to a rural school
The scenery was stunning and the rural development sites we visited (with the UN's World Food Programme) were fascinating. But, for me, they were topped by a visit to a remote high school, a day-and-a-half's trip on rocky, unmade roads south of Addis Ababa.

As we walked up to one of the outdoor classrooms, we heard the voice of a Maths teacher going into great detail about the angles of a parallelogram. When we went in, we found the 60 or so students were all taking their lesson from a professor speaking through a state-of-the-art Samsung plasma video screen that would be way beyond the budget of many schools in the UK. The lesson was being beamed in from Addis via a huge satellite dish outside through a rack of Digital Video Broadcasting (DVB) receivers.
Later on the author reconsiders
Two days ago, an Ethiopian student commented on my post about the screens.

“At school the English in plasma is not good for me , It is too fast and too short, the supporting materials are not easily available particularly for those of us out side Addis. My teachers are not some times sure of the subject may be because of the English like my self. Most students are not happy with the plasma. We would like to get copy of the CDs so we could study at our own time. Please help us.”

Then today, the Rev Andrew Proud, vicar of St Matthew's Anglican church in Addis Ababa, had this to say on his weblog Arat Kilo.

“There have been two major impacts of this technology here so far: only those who have good English are able to keep up with the lessons, most students are beginning to feel left behind; and the teachers have become supervisors and technicians, turning the equipment on and off at the beginning and end of each session. The students even refer to them as DJs.”

It is a useful cautionary tale for tech cheerleaders like me who automatically assume that hi-tech advances are good things in themselves. It is also something that Bono might want to consider before pushing on with his plan to connect every Ethiopian school and hospital to the internet.

Maybe we should be looking for something lower-tech, something that actually works.
There are simply no shortcuts to development and education. One must wonder why Ethiopia is always discovering some new theory of development and governance. A few weeks ago $122 billion in foreign aid over the next ten years was to fall from the sky and solve all problems while today it is the miracle of technology. Somewhat undercover of late but the real basis of governance is an abiding faith in the familiar and manifest failures native to Marxist-Leninism to maintain the status quo.

Consider what is now being planned. Ethiopia earns almost no significant amounts of hard currency beyond the coffee crop that is valued only in the hundreds of millions to finance all the activities of a government for 70 million people. Foreign aid makes up the bulk of every budget dollar spent and the lion’s share of all development dollars.

$40 million (if this is actually done it will be more than that) is a whole lot of money and policies such as the new internet miracle plan are more indicative of the development priorities of foreigners than it is Ethiopians - who figure that they might as well embrace it once the decisions are made in Washington or Brussels - and they figure everyone will get some good press in the bargain. So the IMDP is actually the Bono plan whether or not Bono is actually involved.

In any case half a million fiber optically linked computers in three years is impossible. Imagine that the cable is laid and the proper monitorring systems are imported (probably from China) to prevent 'anti-revolutionary democracy' uses of the new technology.

Can Ethiopian society be reasonably expected to purchase, maintain and absorb 500,000 computers in a three year period? That is anywhere from a quarter to half a billion dollars worth of hardware. Perhaps what is really planned here is a government intranet.

One question raised by the Internet Miracle Development Plan (IMDP) is what else the money could be spent on or how it can be managed so the situation where teachers became DJs and there is less learning going on is not repeated in other fields of government and health. How many teachers could have been trained or paid for the cost of those plasma screens?

Indeed, how many teacher’s colleges, schools and textbooks could have been had for that price? What happens when the technology fails? There is no infrastructure to fix it when that inevitably happens and who will profit from the import of so many high priced items? Are donor governments keeping their constituents happy by insisting on particular brands of computers and plasma screens?

All of which leads to the real issue here: does the whole explosion of information technology really have much to offer a country like Ethiopia which is lacking so many of the basic policies to get on the first ladder of development to begin with?


The Basics Are Missing

That Ethiopia is desperately poor on a scale that exceeds ‘biblical poverty and suffering’ is evident. Right now Ethiopians manage to survive under the burden of defunct socialist policies, unworkable get rich quick schemes and insincere rhetoric about adapting the habits of successful societies.

What is most painful for us on the entire subject of Ethiopia and her prospects is the sense of frustration at opportunities missed on a daily basis by ruinous government policies. We recently came across this essay from EthioMedia that makes this point eloquently.
Ethiopia has the identical natural resource fundamentally responsible for the West's rise: the human mind. But it has neither the freedom nor the Enlightenment philosophy of reason, individualism and political liberty necessary for creating wealth and health. Ethiopia is mired in tribal cultures that stress subordination to the group rather than personal independence and achievement. All over Ethiopia the brutal dictators murder and rob innocent citizens, students and the opposition in order to aggrandize themselves and members of their tribes.

What Ethiopia desperately needs is to remove the political and economic shackles and replace them with political and economic freedom. It needs to depose the socialist regime and establish capitalism, with its political/economic freedom, its rule of law and respect for individual rights. And to accomplish that, it first needs to remove the philosophic shackles and replace tribal collectivism with a philosophy of reason and freedom. The truly humanitarian system is not the Marxism espoused by Western intellectuals but the only system that can establish, as it historically has, the furtherance of life on earth: capitalism.
Imagine who is suffering today for the sake of the revolutionary feudal aristocracy and what all could accomplish in a free society the likes of which billions across the world have already created.

Without the basics of developing and healthy societies that are being denied Ethiopians by a selfish elite, all of those thousands of miles of fiber optic cable might as well be cut up and used to make harnesses for plows.

There are no shortcuts to development or education or healthcare or good governance regardless of publicity and every manner of miracle development plan. The government should just give the people the land they live on as a start to any sincere effort.