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.

<< Home