Sunday, May 28

Meles Love You Long Time

"Let's say I committed this crime… Even if I did this, it would have to have been because I loved her very much, right?"

In a 1998 interview, O.J. Simpson philosophizes on the meaning and expression of love.

quote & image

On May 28, 1991 the city of Addis Ababa was taken by forces which had been engaged in a lengthy & costly civil war / rebellion against the loathsome dictatorship of the Dergue.

A new era of Ethiopian history began but not one altogether different from the recent past. After the dust had settled, the Revolutionary Democracy of Meles proved to be different from the Scientific Socialism of Menigistu only for three principal reasons.

1) Meles (and Issias of Eritrea - while their fragile alliance held) enjoyed a degree of military superiority and public acquiescence that Mengistu never enjoyed because there was no one like the two of them, for them to fight with. Put another way - the new rulers entered power without any capable or determined foes of any ideological, regional or ethnic stripe - Meles was already the last Communist standing and the nation was exhausted by war.

2) Mengistu, to whom every problem could be fixed by slogans and bullets, had so alienated Ethiopians and the West that any change at all was seen as an improvement. Since the side both Meles and Mengistu represented in the Cold War had lost - Meles was forced into relationships with the 'imperialist camp' based on a new set of slogans about the pretense of democracy and free markets. Bullets had to be used more discreetly but their use was, of course, assumed in extremis and indeed routine.

3) Cleverness and the circumstances of low expectations made all things easier for Meles. Instead of billions of dollars wasted on weapons and ruinous economic policies under Mengistu for 17 years - under Meles for 15 years, Ethiopia got far far far more tens of billions in economic aid (and remittances from Ethiopians abroad) to paper over ruinous economic policies and even greater levels of public corruption. All in exchange for the most transparent pretense of civilized government.

Meles has now been President or Prime Minister of Ethiopia for fifteen years. He has also dominated or controlled outright the TPLF and varying parts of Tigray for thirty years. By definition and common sense we all know that any individual who controls a country, region or or political organization for that long can be nothing but a dictator and can't be a democrat of any stripe but the revolutionary democratic kind.

At no step during this history has the consent of the governed been an issue in rule beyond propoganda and the liberal use of words like democratic. This has been constant from the bloody cut-throat days of intrigue in a revolutionary front onto the pretense of civilized democratic institutions.

Always the sole purpose has been power and because of the natural poverty generated by such government, the attraction of money from Western tax-payers is also a necessity. A Social Contract is
is a concept used in philosophy, political science and sociology to denote an implicit agreement within a state regarding the rights and responsibilities of the state and its citizens, or more generally a similar concord between a group and its members, or between individuals.
Ethiopians are at best peripheral players in the perverse social contract of Ethiopian rule. The World Bank recently announced over a billion dollars in grants and loans to the Ethiopian dictatorship - the former will of course be lost in a cesspool of corruption and the latter will never be paid back.

This is understood by all concerned and clearly shows that the principal constituency of Meles and his Politburo is Western politicians and aid bureaucrats. Make no mistake - 'World' and 'Bank' are two words synonymous with Washington and Brussels. All concerned know that countries run like Ethiopia can not be free or even approach any definition of prosperity so the World Bank money amounts to subsistence welfare payments.

In a further example of how politically complex and morally confusing our world is we must recognize that the marriage of convenience between Meles Inc. and the West is the only restraint from pure Stalinist and Maoist barbarism on the Ethiopian government. You see, Stalin and Mao could afford to pay for their despotisms but Meles can't so a tragic song and dance has ensued for the past fifteen years.

While the US stopped selling HUMVEES and there was maneuvering in Congress about consequences for hurting Ethiopians the EU actually cut several hundreds of millions in direct budget support. But no worry to the Ethiopian dictatorship because the World Bank is stepping into the breach
Now the bank and the donors are re-engaging with Ethiopia but providing a much different form of assistance than before, on the theory that they can continue to aid the country's poor while refraining from bolstering the Meles regime.

Instead of lending to the national government as it usually does, the bank will provide $215 million of its new aid to hundreds of local governments, mainly for basic services such as water, health and education.
Stuff and nonsense! In our series about structural corruption in Ethiopia we had a post titled "An Offer They Can't Refuse". There we argued that an earlier British proposal to support lower levels of government was absurd.

The Ethiopian state, ruling party, the commanding heights & lows of the economy, the frequent violent instruments of coercion and the ensuing levels of corruption are so intertwined and indistinguishable that giving money at a lower level of government was, we argued, no different than paying money to the lower levels of an organized crime network without expecting the money to filter up to the bosses.

Everyone concerned knows that Ethiopia is one of the most poorly governed, most corrupt and least favorite places on earth to invest with a stagnant economy apart from handouts from abroad. But once again, low expectations rule and the West realizes as President Franklin Roosevelt did generations ago about Nicaragua's then dictator that
Somoza may be a son of a bitch, but he's our son of a bitch.
The West is well aware that it is paying Meles protection money because one way or another he will rule Ethiopia and that if the West plays along with him he will make Ethiopians suffer less.

The West is also paying Meles protection money for events beyond Ethiopia as well. For the past weeks there have been pitched battles in Mogadishu, the erstwhile capital of Somalia, between the familiar warlords and a new Islamist faction , which seems ascendant.

The US is serving the purposes of its own foreign policy (and that of Western Europeans who pretend to be above such petty concerns) by arming some of the warlords. The Ethiopian government is the agent of choice for such transfers and for such intelligence, with a particular Ethiopian interest in the Somali government (in name alone) that is exiled somewhere out of the former capital.

The US military is seriously present in Djibouti and in Eastern Ethiopia training and no doubt concerned with contingencies where a more active hand might have to be taken in Somali affairs. US Ambassadors won't routinely take target practice where there are serious issues of US trainees violating human rights unless a strong message of realpolitik is being given to all observers.

At the same time there is an acceleration in the Ethiopian government's terror war. The Ethiopian government has been setting off bombs in Addis while its very own 'anti-terror task force' is attacking the political opposition. The government is blaming it on any one of a dozen handy targets of opportunity to change the subject from the 'election' to vicious human rights violations.

There are ongoing rumors of war with Eritrea over land that Ethiopia inexplicably promised to give away under arbitration after an expensive conflict in which it was the victim. Eritrea is the new favorite for blame on the bombing front but such distractions are more inconvenient than the core issue of terror since the West blames Ethiopia on the border issue.

Then all of a sudden there is the wholly new factors of a Christian-Moslem clash in Ethiopia to join the usual divide and rule tribal ones orchestrated by the government. The recent events in Jijiga of Eastern Ethiopia is totally unlike the character and habits of all Ethiopians over centuries of peaceful co-existence.

However, they also serve to change the subject from human rights, EU Parliament meetings and US Congressional hearings to focus the donor mind on how happy the West should be that Ethiopians at least aren't engaged in canibalism and how little should be expected from or for them.

It matters little if events in Ethioipa or Somalia have been manipulated by the Ethiopian government or who knows it - to focus attention as its whole Potemkin edifice of 'African Rennaisance' has fallen down. The world knows that Meles Inc. will do whatever it has to do to stay in power and that millions of Ethiopian or Somali lives matter little in that equation.

In the Great Game of Horn of Africa ' the West found itself playing chicken' with Meles and the West blinked first. Meles gets what he wants, power and money - both really amount to the same thing. Long term Western interests in a vibrant Ethiopia as an ally have taken a distance second place to the damage Meles can do to Western interests TODAY by not co-operating in Somalia and pushing Ethiopia itself over the edge.

So there you have it - Ethiopia's social contract has nothing to do with 70 million Ethiopians except as victims and at the very best as observers. The relationships that matter are principally fincancial and all between the West and Meles Inc. Meles is certainly all set 'to love Ethiopia long time' although past experience sees varieties of love like that familiar to O.J. in evidence.

Meles is as much a creature of Western foreign policy as Mengistu was of Soviet foreign policy. The policies of either had vanishingly little to do with the Ethiopian national interest.

And please ... no talk of looking for the 'real killers' - we all know exactly what is going on. We at ethiopundit are caught between support of a determined fight in the actual War on Terror and our concern for attendant consequences of the misinterpretations of US national interest in Ethiopia.

We also are, at best, impatient with conspiracy theories (unless we come up with them - we call our own 'analysis' but since we are usually right we deem them to be OK).

The West, albeit in a very shortsighted manner, is looking after the interests of Western Europeans and Americans - just as it should. The only people looking out for the interests of Ethiopians in all of this is via the peripheral minimal limits on how many Ethiopians their own government is allowed to kill (in public anyway) set by the West.

Friday, May 26

A Sign of Desperation

Seminawork (wax and gold) a great blog of 'ethiopian life, politics, culture and arts' reports that the Government Blocks Bloggers. Below is the full post ... and Meskel Square confirms the blocking itself. Seminawork also shows how to evade the censorship.


Government Blocks Bloggers from Seminawork, May 16

Over the last two days, all blogspots blogs including have been blocked in Ethiopia. Those who seek political quips fron weichegud or intelligent analysis form other bloggers can't access the sites via the telecom servers. In addition, the government has blocked Ethiopian Review, cyber ethiopia, quatero and Free our leaders websites.

My sources told me this is done by tel. with the advise and help of the chinese.This blog can't be accessed in Ethiopia so the following advise may not reach its intended readers. Other websites like Ethiomedia who hasn't yet been blocked should carry the message to Ethiopian readers.

Readers can use an open proxy like this which allow to circumvent the blocks. Readers should click on and enter the address that is blocked in the displayed box. Using the proxy we can access our beloved blogs and websites even though the government has censored them.


two cents from ethiopundit

In the September 2004 post Information De-Evolution V - Big Brother? we noted the manner of Chinese control and censorship of the internet and wondered ... Why does what happens in China matter to Ethiopia? .... because it is the model for the flow of information in Ethiopia according to the Ethiopian government itself.

An article from The Reporter (link long dead now) detailed a public debate about the draconian draft press law (back when there was a semblance of a minimally free press to get donor aid flowing) that was thought by many to be the death knell for Ethiopia's then already besieged press.
According to observers who followed the meeting, what was more revolting than the restrictive and prohibitive content of the draft press law were the explanations of the Minister of Information himself who officiously told the participants that his government has the right to jam broadcasting, block the internet.

". . .Jamming is not illegal, China does block the internet," the Minister said. "What toppled the governments of eastern European countries were mainly the international broadcasters. We don't want that to be repeated in our country . . ." he added.

Publishers, editors and journalists alike vowed to continue their fight against both the content of the draft press law and the intent and purpose of the government.
The admiration for China's restrictions on information and the expressed fear that the events that liberated Eastern Europe from totalitarianism parallel the Ethiopian situation today is a stunning and revealing admission from a government official.

Dagmawi notes of Ethiopian government criticism of the peaceful revolutions of Eastern Europe in the past year that
The PEACEFUL Ukrainian Orange Revolution deposed a despot and opened the way to real democracy in the country. The incompetent TPLF/EPRDF prosecution doesnt realize that in opposing the Ukrainian Orange Revolution, they are supporting the maintenance of DICTATORSHIP in eastern Europe.
As for the official's statement as to what is legal and not ... it is nonsense. In Nazi Germany and in the former Soviet Union death and concentration camps were perfectly legal according to the evil laws of Hitler and Stalin although they were all nothing but crimes against humanity.

In Ethiopia today the 'legality' of a fictitious parliament, supreme court, anti-terrorism task force, elections and other such simalcrums of the institutions and actions of civilized government are meaningless and indeed harmful when decreed in the service of dictatorship.


This article China campuses' Internet hall monitors from the International Herald Tribune reveals the other approach of such governments to control debate. The article describes a student in her
second year at Shanghai Normal University, coming across as ordinary is just fine, given the parallel life she leads. For several hours each week she repairs to a little-known on-campus office crammed with computers, where she logs on, unsuspected by other students, to help police her university's Internet forums.

Once online, following suggestions from professors or older students, she introduces politically correct or innocuous themes for discussion.
Meles Inc. can censor blogs in Ethiopia but abroad it plans ahead and attempts to massage opinion in the same manner above when the level of discourse and criticism gets to be too large for simple intimidation to work.


How absurd! ... just imagine a government so insecure and so concerned with bloggers and their simple truths that it tries to shut them down and control them. The government's actions are, of course, a sign of desperation.

You see, Ethiopians seem to have forgotten that politics is none of their business. Zemene Ashattir is crumbling away and only the kalashnikovs and cadres remain as justification for rule.

An email points out one obvious truth that had escaped us initially - the blogger ban not only prevents opinion from reaching INTO Ethiopia it also prevents unregulated news from getting OUT OF Ethiopia.


Satisfy My Soul [Ego] has a humorous take on the issue and provides a list of web based proxy servers to evade blockages.

Tuesday, May 23

Ethiopia – Current Situation, Possible Solutions

Dr. Theodore Vestal is the author of the remarkable book Ethiopia: A Post-Cold War African State which is a must for understanding contemporary Ethiopia and he is a noted scholar and friend of Ethiopia. Below is the entirety of a speech Ethiopia – Current Situation, Possible Solutions delivered by Professor Vestal on March 31, 2006 as a Keynote Address for Advocacy Ethiopia. He clearly 'gets' the situation and lays it out in clear terms. Advocacy Ethiopia's main objective is to actively promote the continuation and advancement of the democratic movement in Ethiopia.


Advocacy Ethiopia Keynote Address
'Ethiopia – Current Situation, Possible Solutions'
by Theodore M. Vestal

The perpetrators of human rights abuses and deficits of democracy in Ethiopia take many names. But whether it is the party in organization, the Ethiopian Peoples Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), or any of its ethnic front parties such as the Oromo Peoples Democratic Party (OPDO), or the party-controlled “voluntary organizations” such as the EPRDF’s versions of the Ethiopian Teachers Association, or the Confederation of Ethiopian Trade Unions (CETU), or the collective name for the collectivists, the Woyane, or the party in government, the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (FDRE), control comes from the leaders of the Tigray Peoples Revolutionary Front (TPLF) that is itself controlled by veterans of the Marxist-Leninist League of Tigray. They exercise control because they enjoy a monopoly of terror. They have learned capitalist-speak with which they woo donor nations, but their: repressive regime thwarts democratic processes, abuses human rights, and purposefully intensifies ethnic distrust. Such distrust and hatred unleashes the human rights abuses that our speakers tonight (Obang Metho, Andargachew Tsege, and Peter Takirambudde) so graphically described (as they had done earlier this week before a Congressional sub-committee hearing), abuses inflicted by those representing what the Germans call "der innere Schweinhund," or the evil spirit within.

The title of the government, “FDRE,” with all its democratic deficits, reminds me of the New Yorker cartoon which asks, “Has there ever been a country that had the word ‘Democratic’ in its name that was?” Examples of the wisdom of the cartoon abound worldwide but especially in Ethiopia.

What a difference a few years can make. In 1991 with the fall of the Derg, the world had high expectations for Ethiopia. The new EPRDF regime made admirable promises: to hold democratic multiparty elections, to establish a pluralist society with a free press, to establish respect for human rights, and to promote the rule of law with equal status for all peoples. Promises were made, but promises were broken.

And in 1991, the U.S. State Department said that Ethiopia would have to implement democratic reforms if it wanted continued American support. Warnings were given, but warnings were ignored. What happened to all those expectations and promises in the past 16 years?

The U.S. State Department Depiction of the Ethiopian Regime

Because the U.S. Department of State played a prominent role in legitimating the current EPRDF leadership, the U.S. Government, until 2000, depicted the current regime in the most favorable light possible. For eight years after the EPRDF came to power in 1991, the annual U.S. State Department's Human Rights Report (country report) conveyed the impression that the Ethiopian Government was committed to improving human rights and the democratization process. But according to the New York-based Lawyers Committee on Human Rights, the State Department’s reports were biased and misleading and created very different impressions of the regime in question, depending on the strength of U.S. economic and strategic ties. The country reports for Ethiopia, with their selective reporting and carefully crafted phrases, were sharply criticized as being of dubious authenticity in describing the human rights situation.

For example, the Oromiya Support Group, headed by the respected British physician, Trevor Trueman, has recorded 3,604 extrajudicial killings and 903 disappearances in Ethiopia since 1992. The Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights listed over one hundred cases of disappearances in Ethiopia from 1992-1996. Nevertheless, the U.S. State Department's 1997 Human Rights Report asserted “there were unconfirmed reports of extrajudicial killings by Government security forces, however, the very high numbers claimed by human rights activists and ethnically based NGOs could not be substantiated.” The fact that the reports of killings and disappearances could not be substantiated did not mean that they did not happen, but more likely, that they had not been investigated by U.S. embassy staff. The 1997 Report also asserted “there were no confirmed reports, but numerous unsubstantiated reports, of alleged disappearances” in Ethiopia. Yet, the same report also conceded that security forces arrested and held people “incommunicado for several days or weeks.” Thus, the 1997 Report seemed to admit that disappearances did in fact occur.

The U.S. Department of State’s 1999 through 2005Country Reports on Human Rights Practices in Ethiopia are far more candid accounts of human rights abuses than were their predecessors. These reports admit that “the Government's human rights record remained poor;” that “some local officials and members of the security forces committed human rights abuses;” that “security forces committed a number of extrajudicial killings;” that “security forces at times beat and mistreated detainees, and arbitrarily arrested and detained citizens;” that “prison conditions are poor, and prolonged pretrial detention remains a problem;” that “the Government infringes on citizen's privacy rights, and the law regarding search warrants is widely ignored;” that “the Government limits freedom of association;” and that “the Government restricted freedom of movement.”

Where and to whom human rights abuses were perpetrated are described in these reports, some with specificity. The record of the Ethiopian Government as equal opportunity oppressors of literally all ethnic groups, regions of the country, organizations, and professions is laid out in such detail that the contrast is startling for those who have read the earlier reports. Although there are still assertions with which many observers of the Ethiopian scene would disagree, the general tone of the chronicles is a vast improvement in veracity. The reports appear to burst the bonds of restraint that for so long had kept the Ethiopian summary mild and indulgent compared to many other country reports. The generally frank, forthright, and honest assessment of human rights abuses and deficits of democracy in Ethiopia—with all its faults--should alert the world to the harshness with which the EPRDF deals with those it suspects of opposing its policies.

The Bush Administration has announced a goal of spreading democracy throughout the world. But what is this “democracy” in President Bush’s goal? Is it simply the holding of elections? Never have I heard members of the Administration talk about democracy being a system of government in which political power is widely shared, where citizens have easy access to positions of decision-making. By no stretch of the imagination could the Bush administration believe that the FDRE approaches this definition of democracy.

Perhaps the President should be reminded of the old sayings that democracies feature certain political procedures but uncertain political results, while authoritarian regimes feature uncertain political procedures but certain political results. In a democracy, procedures for handling political conflict are regularized. There is consensus on the rules of the game, and the rules are codified into law. Democratic electoral processes permit opposing forces to depose and replace current office holders. Authoritarian electoral systems do not permit electoral defeat of those in power and serve as an instrument of
mass mobilization and legitimation for the regime. By such definitions, what form of government exists in Ethiopia?

EPRDF Finagling of Elections

The thwarting of democratic electoral processes in 2005 by the EPRDF should be no surprise to observers of post-Derg Ethiopia. The same script has been followed by the ruling party in every election held since the flight of Mengistu Haile Mariam. The EPRDF’s bag of dirty tricks is repeatedly brought out at election time.

Take, for example, the sorry tale of the quashing of the United Democratic Nationals (UDN), a multi-ethnic, pan-Ethiopian political party organized in 1991. Meetings of the party were carefully monitored by EPRDF informants, and any statements that could be interpreted in any way as “anti-government” were reported. EPRDF cadre attempted to disrupt meetings and harass those attending. The mass media, especially radio, were used to vilify the UDN, which was called a “chauvinistic Amhara organization harboring former members of the Derg. The EPRDF attempted to co-opt the UDN by offering to make its meetings “a joint panel for discussion”—a “generous” offer the UDN prudently ignored. The EPRDF tried to prevent mass meetings or demonstrations. When a large contingent of UDN supporters marched to Meskel Square for a rally, gunfire was heard by the marchers and military vehicles were driven through the crowd at high speeds. Troops along the route taunted the demonstrators to the point that rocks were thrown at them (were the rock-throwers EPRDF “plants” in the procession?). At Meskel Square, shortly after the formal program began, the electricity mysteriously went out making loud speakers useless.

The next day, UDN leaders were arrested for being responsible for the rock throwing. They were charged with making “seditious statements” in their remarks at the demonstration. The Government ignored a habeas corpus order from a court, and the UDN leaders were released on bail only upon the urging of the Embassy of a donor nation. Once released, the UDN principals were under constant surveillance. Some fled the country when foreign embassy officials tipped them off about plots to assassinate them! The UDN never officially was banned but its offices were physically occupied by the EPRDF. Rank and file members of the UDN were tormented by the Woyane, and the fledgling party was not allowed to participate in the 1992 elections.

A potentially popular political party was rendered impotent by the repeated harassment and intimidation of its members by the Government and the EPRDF. Some UDN members were abducted by the Government and their whereabouts are unknown to this day. Others were jailed and tortured. The full force of Government power was used against those who legally opposed its policies. Human rights and due process simply could not exist for non-Government approved opposition. Where Government sanctions could not be invoked, the EPRDF could act either subtly or blatantly against “enemies” without fear of having to answer for violating the law or denying others human rights. The same script of oppression was used by the EPRDF in the 1992, 2000, 2001, and 2005 elections. The human rights abuses in the 2000 and 2001 elections were well documented in the book Ethiopia Since the Derg.

I served as an international election observer in the 1992 District and Regional Elections and saw first-hand the dominant role played by the National Election Commission (NEC), supposedly a non-partisan entity but in reality an EPRDF appendage. The NEC carefully kept other parties or the general public uninformed about electoral processes until shortly before deadline expired thwarting meaningful participation my many. These and other election shortcomings were pointed out by American and European elections observers—who were pointedly never invited back in subsequent elections. Cleverly, Meles Zenawi acknowledged that the process was flawed but nevertheless was “an important step toward democracy,” an apologia used to mute criticism after every election. And after every election, the Government assures all of its willingness to redress any irregularities, even repeating elections in some areas if need be. But after the returns are in, who is it that chooses which elections will be “redressed?” Not the opposition parties! In 1992, I observed the Government create an Election Review Board, supposedly an impartial body of 21 members representing NGOs and civic groups. But you can be sure that an overwhelming majority of the Board members were EPRDF loyalists!

The Need for Opposition in a Democracy

What the EPRDF did not want was opposition as understood in parliamentary democracies. Public disagreement is an essential instrument of popular government. Democracy, to a great extent, is government by public discussion, not simply the enforcement of the will of the majority. Not any "will," but only a will formed in vigorous and wide-open debate should be given sovereign authority. By confusing opposition with rebellion, the FDRE prevents key players from participating in deliberations. Without being threatened or deprived of their livelihood by the FDRE, Ethiopians were unable to articulate and publicly defend nonconformist political views. Consent was meaningless without institutional guarantees of unpunished dissent. The popular sovereignty claimed by the EPRDF was pointless without rules organizing and protecting public debate. The rhetorical commitment of the FDRE to protection of rights of expression, assembly, and association vital to political opposition were shams in practice. The legally protected right of opposition provides an essential precondition for the formation of a democratic public opinion--something that has not been allowed to develop in Ethiopia. A political system that limits government can prevent rulers from insulating their decisions from future criticism and revision. Rules forbidding punishment of dissenters might compensate for a lack of better motives by EPRDF leaders.

The EPRDF has no difficulty with one fundamental norm of democratic government: after a decision is made, the outvoted minority must submit to the will of the majority. But the rules of the game of democracy allow losers to mount aggressive campaigns of public sarcasm and to focus public opinion irritatingly on the unforeseen consequences of the decision reached--a situation the EPRDF will not tolerate. In the long run, such momentarily annoying arrangements make for better decisions. In other words, rights are not designed merely for the protection of the minority but also for the correction and instruction of the majority. Thus, the restraints of constitutionalism tend to make government more intelligent--a condition badly needed in Ethiopia.

Lessons from history tell of the ultimate futility of such attempts to compel adherence as are being used against Professor Mesfin and Mayor-elect Berhanu and the other prisoners of conscience. From the Roman drive to stamp out Christianity as a challenge to its pagan unity down to the terror of the Derg as a means to Ethiopian unity, dictatorial rulers have failed in their efforts to prescribe what will be orthodox in politics, nationalism, or other matters of opinion. The TPLF should heed the warning of the American jurist Robert Jackson: "Those who begin coercive elimination of dissent soon find themselves exterminating dissenters. Compulsory unification of opinion achieves only the unanimity of the graveyard."

Dirty Tricks Observed in Political Asylum Cases

I am especially aware of the tactics used by the EPRDF against members of opposition political parties because of my experience as an expert witness in over 100 political asylum cases of Ethiopians from all major ethnic groups and from all walks of life, most of whom are under the radar of international observers. The tactic frequently used against members of opposing political activities is that of incremental persecution. Government operatives harass known or suspected political opponents by illegally breaking in and searching their homes in the middle of the night, arresting them without warrant, detaining them for short periods of time during which they are questioned, beaten, or tortured, and releasing them only after they have signed a pledge to no more take part in political activities and requiring them to sign in daily or frequently at their kebele office. Far too often, these incidents are increased in frequency and/or intensity over time until finally the suspect is arrested and detained for a long period--or even disappears. In addition, the suspect’s family and their dwelling may be put under surveillance by Government forces.

The Government engages in incremental persecution because: first, there is not enough space in prisons to hold all members and alleged sympathizers of opposition groups; and secondly, in order to gain support from donor nations and the international community, the Ethiopian government tries to keep its persecution of political opponents and other people as secretive as possible.

Therefore, being perceived as a sympathizer of an opposition group renders an individual vulnerable to incremental persecution, up to and including torture, long periods of detention, and even disappearances and extrajudicial killings. Also, being a family member of such persons can certainly subject an individual to persecution.

Being an actual or a suspected member of an opposition political group will place an individual in danger of persecution at the hands of the Ethiopian Government. Far too many Ethiopians have learned that open, peaceful opposition to the Ethiopian government is a risky undertaking. Members of legal political parties and organizations, time and again have found themselves threatened and beaten or incarcerated for taking part in politics and expressing their beliefs. Many opposition politicians have fled abroad, and others have been in prison for much of the time that the current government has held power.

It should be noted too that the EPRDF Party in Association has sought to transform the socioeconomic substructure of Ethiopia into a web of ideologically alliances subservient to the party. The EPRDF control of the Ethiopian Teachers Association and CETU are examples of this.

Stifled Press

Without the safeguard of a free and uncensored press, the fawning government-controlled media informed the public of only what the EPRDF thought appropriate. Government policies and activities were routinely praised rather than being questioned by the mass media. The EPRDF/FDRE effectively cut off the "breathing space" for criticisms of public officials or government institutions or policies and stifled any "commitment to the principle that debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust, and wide-open" and "may well include vehement, caustic, and sometimes unpleasantly sharp attacks on government and public officials." Instead, party line propaganda passed for "news." The watch dog press had been neutered into a lap dog media yapping only on command.

Violations of citizens’ due process of the law have been well documented by EHRCO. So many of these persecution have been made on the basis of ethnicity, the most gratuitously evil of totalitarian malignancies--ethnic hatreds fanned by the regime.

The EPRDF Strategy Document

All of these violations of human rights and deficits of democracy are a part of the strategy of the EPRDF. Although the EPRDF’s strategy document was published in English in the Ethiopian Register in 1996 and summarized in my book in 1999, I have never heard a U.S. State Department official nor a member of Congress refer to this document.

The EPRDF’s Political Strategies ensure permanent hegemony for the party. At the hear of the document is the statement: “Only by winning the elections successively and holding power without letup can we securely establish the hegemony of Revolutionary Democracy.”

Economic strategies provide for government-backed profits for party and party faithful.
Property belongs only to the state, and let me add parenthetically that I belive that the lack of private property is the root cause of Ethiopia’s never living up to its potential as bread basket for Africa—something that some of the world’s best scientists have been predicting for over fifty years.

The Hidden Agendas of the Strategy Document

Behind the facile Marxist-Leninist ideas of the document are the concerns of ideologues under stress. In a world where communism and Marxist-Leninist regimes, with a few exceptions, have faded away, how can EPRDF theorists be true to their Marxist principles and at the same time appease donor nations? In the face of "people power" that said "No!" to authoritarian regimes in so many Marxist states during the past twenty years, how can a small elite of former guerrilla fighters follow the old communist pattern and boldly proclaim that they know what is best for Ethiopia and its people?

To answer these questions, the strategy document provides techniques for avoiding conflict with "the imperialists" while creating a facade of democracy, the protection of human rights, and free market capitalism. New "masters of deceit" give instructions in how to beguile donor nations and international bodies with what the party appears to do even as the Front follows a very different agenda in its actions.

At the top of the agenda is the party's goal of permanently establishing hegemony. Lacking confidence that the people would accept its self-proclaimed legitimacy, the
EPRDF feared "losing the elections even once." Thus, the Front will do whatever it takes to win all elections and to destroy effective political opposition. Backed by an army that is "free and neutral in appearance" but really the EPRDF military, the Front will not hesitate to cite "any relevant legal article" to punish its detractors.

Following Lenin's advice, the EPRDF seeks to "control the commanding heights of the economy." To scale the heights, the Front will get a boost from its two-track public and private powers. Government fiscal policy will reduce taxes on EPRDF-backed forces while "piling up" taxes on others. Front workers will receive "pay and training far better" than others. Trade unions will be infiltrated by party loyalists. Economic "revolutionary democratic" forces, euphemistically companies affiliated with the Front, will "invest as one individual in those economic sectors which have no direct state influence." This use of "party capitalists" is a clever ploy that allows the EPRDF indirectly to play an economic role that the Front knows the West would not let it play directly.

As described in the strategy document, the use to the fullest extent possible of "key propaganda tools," including schools, religious organizations, and mass media is a shrewd scheme to present the Front in the best possible light. The document also cunningly recommends propaganda that "is not openly presented as propaganda" as effective in the party's use.

The strategy document gives instructions in the latest version of the Lenin two-step, a dance for the Front artiste featuring far more than two steps backward to avoid bumping into the forces of imperialism while doing one step forward to demonstrate ideological adroitness for the comrades. The EPRDF has well learned the choreography and, as we have seen, has skirted around Western nations and international bodies on the main dance floor. Meanwhile, the Front continues to affront fellow citizens who refuse to cheer its performance with a crude stomp dance.

Ending the Conspiracy of Silence and Bringing about Change

If there were a scripture for a sermon on present day Ethiopia, it should come from the book of Isaiah: “Open the bonds of wickedness, dissolve the groups that pervert justice, let the oppressed go free, and annul all evil decrees...Then your light will burst forth like the dawn.

The story of Ethiopia under EPRDF rule remains generally unreported or overlooked by most of the world, unlike the stories of Tibet, Burma, and South Africa, where Nobel Peace Prize winners have vividly dramatized the plight of their people. Instead, Ethiopia suffered from a conspiracy of silence. Representatives of donor nations, playing to their own strategic interests, are among the conspirators, as are some journalists and academicians.

Ethiopians of the diaspora are vociferous critics of the regime, but their jeremiads are ignored or downplayed as part of the conspiracy. All too often, as they rage against the dying of the light that was Ethiopia, they are talking to sympathizers, and the difficulty of making themselves heard is intensified by many Westerners' indifference to or ignorance of events in Africa. Within Ethiopia, those who have maintained their powers of integrity and their capacities of independent judgment, well know that they can speak out against the government only with caution. As South African playwright, Athol Fugard says, "It's always like that when there is a very powerful, repressive government in place. People are frightened to talk, frightened to see what is happening around them." Under such circumstances, it has been arduous to make known the story of the EPRDF's tyranny.

Cracks in the conspiracy of silence appeared when the tragedy of unintended consequences overtook the EPRDF leaders. President Clinton's visit to East Africa in the late 1990s threw a spotlight on the murky underpinnings of the "new generation of African leaders." A few American journalists from the mainstream press joined British colleagues from the BBC and the Economist in giving a fair critique of the state of
democracy and human rights in the FDRE. The later border squabble between Ethiopia and Eritrea drew further journalistic probes into the records and motivations of the ruling parties of the two nations. Belatedly, the coverage of U.S. media went beyond official pronouncements of the Ethiopian government or the craftily worded apologia of U.S. diplomats.

Exposed was the blatant record of the EPRDF's tyrannical rule by fear. Opened for investigation was what one Ethiopian journalist has called the EPRDF/TPLF's "insidious, all-encompassing, relentless war" on Ethiopia. Ready for further analysis are the weapons--legal, educational, judicial, economic, political, diplomatic, ideological, and military--used by the Front to reduce Ethiopia into "a collection of weak and dependent ethnic homelands." And open to question is the need for U.S. and Western acquiescence in EPRDF repression--the compost of secret treacheries that are an integral part of diplomatic relations.

With the conspiracy of silence broken, freedom-loving Ethiopians can hope for a more empathetic response to their appeals for support. It should be made clear that there is an alternative to ethnic fundamentalism: that it is democracy with concomitant protection of human and civil rights; political pluralism and dialogue; freedom from harassment, imprisonment, and assassination for one's convictions; free elections; and an independent judiciary. Who, knowing the context of the argument could disagree with the right of the Ethiopian people to decide whether to opt for democracy or to continue with the problematic ethnic federalism and an authoritarian regime?

The lack of freedom of choice has plagued Ethiopians during the twentieth century. The monarchy, the Derg, and the EPRDF have all been self-anointed rulers, who, once in power, have never given the people an opportunity to change the government. It is for such an opportunity to be available to Ethiopians that the opposition political parties make their case. By letting the people decide for themselves what governing arrangements they want, there is hope for a well-ordered Ethiopian society. Then Ethiopia can get on with fulfilling its destiny as the jewel in the crown of Africa.
Then there will be a better chance for the government to provide economic security for the people and alleviate the suffering caused by poverty and disease. Then at last the nation can put away its image as a famine-wracked land and become the bread basket of Africa that it is capable of being.

The people planning this democratic transformation will need wisdom, ability, and vision to create such a society. They also must be carefully prepared and imminently resourceful. Changing the nation's political culture will not be easy. The hard road ahead to democracy will traverse conflict, bargaining and compromise, reverses, new attempts at reform, and possibly violence.

But a critical mass of Ethiopians shares a sacred hunger for democracy. They tire of a leavening of malice in their daily bread. With opposition at home and abroad finally organized, pressures for democratic change will mount on the government. An increasingly threatened regime has become overly repressive in an attempt to survive. That will invite a return to civil war. The alternatives make a negotiated attempt at establishing a liberal democracy all the more attractive.

Meanwhile, Ethiopia, having completed its transition from one Marxist-Leninist regime to another, limps on, wearing the thick boot of authoritarianism at the end of one leg, and the iron of ethnic hatred on the other.

A Plan of Action

What can be done? What can Ethiopians do to oppose those who refuse to allow democracy in their native land?

This past Tuesday, 28 March2006, in testimony before a Congressional Subcommittee on “Ethiopia’s Troubled Internal Situation,” Lynn Fredricksson representing Amnesty International laid out a series of recommendations that I don’t think can be improved.

To paraphrase her eloquence: We call on the Government of Ethiopia to:

1. Immediately and unconditionally release all prisoners of conscience detained in Ethiopia, including members of parliament, human rights defenders, independent journalists and nonviolent student protesters.

2. Ensure a fair trial according to international standards to all detainees against whom
charges are maintained.

3. Ensure a thorough, impartial and independent investigation into the killings of
demonstrators by security forces (as well as violence against security forces) on June 8
and in early November 2005. This should be done by a non-EPRDF entity and should include: taking evidence from the public as well as members of the security forces; guarantees of safety for witnesses; investigation into the excessive use of force by security forces, arbitrary incommunicado detentions without charge or trial (contrary to Ethiopian law); and reports of torture and ill treatment of some detainees. A report and recommendations should be made public in a reasonable period of time.

4. Ensure that all political detainees are treated humanely in custody in accordance with
international and regional standards for the treatment of prisoners, with particular regard
to medical treatment, family visits and communications, and permission for reading and
writing materials.

5. Recognize and respect the right to freedom of speech, assembly, association and press, as set out in the Ethiopian Constitution, and international and regional human rights treaties to which Ethiopia is party.

6. Respect the legitimate role of Ethiopian human rights defenders and civil society activists and their counterparts in international organizations.

We call on the Government of the United States to:

1. Support these recommendations to the Government of Ethiopia, and make human rights central to U.S. relations with the Government of Ethiopia and Ethiopian civil society.

2. Instruct the Acting U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia to take actions necessary to successfully press the Government of Ethiopia to release all prisoners of conscience immediately and unconditionally.

3. Actively monitor all political trials in Addis Ababa and other places in Ethiopia, demand that they fulfill international standards for fair trials, and actively monitor the treatment of prisoners of conscience and all political detainees.

Critics of a human rights foreign policy worry it will undermine U.S. relations with a strategic “frontline state’ bordering the Sudan. The choice between the promotion of human rights and democracy on the one hand and a concern for regional stability on the other is a false dichotomy. The United States can pursue both—while actually furthering its goal of really spreading democracy.

Let us make personal freedom the mandate of the 21st Century. Let us make this our mission: To use the full panoply of weapons in the democratic arsenal to bring pressure to bear on democratic donor nations to live up to their aspirations and to withhold all but humanitarian assistance to Ethiopia until human rights abuses and glaring deficits of democracy have been meaningfully addressed by the FDRE.

And let this be our duty: To continue to bring pressure on the FDRE to live up to its name. To continue a campaign of shame: to bring the full light of publicity to the wrong doings of the perpetrators of evil in your heaven-blessed homeland.

Carrying out our mission and our duty will not be easy. Few things of value are. But in the strongly religious nation that is Ethiopia, let the people move forward in discharge of their mission and their duty, fearing God and nothing else.

Monday, May 1


what happens if they arrest our parents?

In 21 Months and Counting ... in stating that none of varied forms of 'encouragement' will change what we write (we have yet to be offered money by the way ...) we noted that
When discussion of politics is a matter of death, betrayal, bribery, submission, intrigue, obsessive schadenfreude, privilege 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.
While depending on the topic or the mood of our readers we get varying amounts of email, that small cyber community became rather active in the past two weeks.

For us, the debate came down to the individual choices made by Ethiopians everywhere in response to varying forms of coercion and the implicit consent that some of those choices make to government.

For some, it was clearly not that simple. Here, rather loosely translated (at the writer's request) is part of a rather angry Amharic response
It is easy for you 'Ethio-Americans' to lecture us about dictatorship and how 'brave' citizens should behave when it is our lives that are at the mercy of the government. Do you have any concept of the risks Ethiopians take to resist it in any way?
In a similiar vein, last year we considered and turned over to a journalist a suggested article about the Ethiopian government's network of agents in the U.S. After countless hours of interviews and following up sources by said reporter - two of the main sources refused to cooperate - one of them with this logical explanation
What happens if they arrest our parents?
Good questions and one we are not equipped to answer. With appreciation for the limitations of vison and opinion all around we will try to come to terms with the fundamentals that question raises in the sections below.


A Boot Stomping on A Human Face Forever

No despot in history has ever had enough guns, swords or indeed willing thugs to wield them everywhere and all of the time his victims - entire populations - are found. That is why all despots nourish fear so that to millions, the very thought of authority comes to equal actual bloodshed and suffering.

There are accounts of what just one horseman from the legions of Ghenghis Khan could do to thousands all by himself. He could ride into any town throughout most of Asia and take whatever he wanted and kill whomever he felt like. No one dared challenge him.

No one would even look him in the face because everyone knew what the armies he represented could do on a whim nevermind when they thought they had cause. Imagine that level of terror - all knew there were places where pyramids had been made of the skulls of those who didn't submit as demanded.

Even more efficient from the despot's point of view is the far more profound level of submission achievable in millions far beyond the limits of pure terror. Once millions can be made to internalize their own status of an eternal victimhood - TO BELIEVE - that their natural state is one of being in terror to authority - at that point they not only police the opinions of their fellows but they also police THEIR OWN MINDS and form their own complex heirarchies of belief and justification to make it seem right.

There is a story in an old history of the KGB about how one man was turned into an informer. In the depths of an inhuman, starving and miserable winter under Stalin's rule a deliveryman for a bakery discovered he had extra bread rolls. He took them home to his family only to find that the rolls had been planted and that the only way to save his family from deportation to a camp was to serve as a spy.

You must realize dear reader that the KGB could have just ordered him to do whatever they wanted him to and he would have had to obey. The extra step of 'catching' him was an assault on his very soul. By using his sense of justice, crime and punishment those masters of evil wanted to make him complicit in his own corruption.

Then there are the volunteers who hold themselves and their fellows in such low esteem that they willingly serve a despotic state without compulsion. We will leave that bit of analysis to your own imagination.

Even if the baker's assistant had been forced to become an agent a perverse form of 'voluntary' complicity would have followed by the state's design. Consider this: anyone who wasn't raised from birth as a cadre has a rudimentary sense of right and wrong.

When individuals or groups are continually forced to do what is wrong they simply convince themselves that it was right all along anyway or that they are only hurting a few people who really deserve it anyway and who would do the same thing to them.

Thus a senses of pride and purpose in born of the very worst aspects of human nature. Indeed to many being agents of government becomes a badge of honor and they imagine themselves part of an exclusive club.

While right actually may rest with those who didn't or wouldn't join that club - a pack mentality of sorts takes hold to justify what is done. Those outside are a lesser form of human and not quite sophisticated enough to appreciate the moral sliding of collaboration.

Every act that they learned was wrong at the knee of their mother and father binds them to the state and to those who become their masters. The minions of the state are then presented with a win - win situation. The slightest reward the state's minions can give will resound a thousand fold in the vain hearts of those desperately seeking approval.

Of course, the slightest punishment the state's minions can give means far more than it would to free men and women. When they have tied themselves to the whims of dictators they have nowhere to retreat to so that they can find meaning without the approval of their tormentors.

How about getting to meet the officials and aristocrats of a brutal dictatorship socially? Or being sought out by the ambassador of the same? Or being told that serving the state is a mark of authentic Ethiopian-ness?

That is all heady and profoundly meaningful stuff for some of us regardless of the blood literally or figuratively dripping from the fingernails in question - after all everyone knows it is there.

The state counts on that exactly - from the stolen bread rolls, to the first lie told on behalf of the state, to the first bit of spying onto years of deception - all tie the government's tools ever more firmly to it in the slippery grasping bloody hands of guilt.

Ethiopians are a remarkably forgiving and understanding people. Especially in the past few generations they have developed an acute sense of what bad circumstances can do to good people.

Take the example of every Ethiopian who joined the opposition, who did not back down and who persevered through bitter terror and fear. We hear officially that about a hundred died but that is only what foreign reporters could vouch for. We believe it was thousands more.

There are tens of thousands in camps and the leadership of the opposition who were certainly offered every form of bribe possible languish in jail under threat of death. They and countless others suffer but only survive because of the minimal interest of ferenjis who have to beg and threaten the government to treat its own people decently.

There is absolutely no indication that the country in general or the opposition wants to or would treat its tormentors the way they themselves are treated. That is the wonder of the bravery shown by Ethiopians in the past year or so and the main promise for the future.

Those sentiments and actually any sense of conventional morality and national feeling are to the Ethiopian government what a mirror, cross or holy water is to a vampire. From eternal beggar status to cherishing tribal hatred onto the working assumption that Ethiopians who don't submit (or indeed Ethiopians in general) deserve to suffer what the government wants to do is break down individuals as it does the nation itself.

Therefore they will have nowhere else to turn for meaning, will believe themselves irredeemably corrupt and compromised and figure that the best they can ever be is brutalized victims happy to have a dictatorship maybe marginally better than old Congo's.

The Ethiopian government's approach to controlling Ethiopians is identical to that of a pimp whose prostitutes look to him for all meaning, accept calculated violence and all along figure that they deserve it.

What the government is pimping is the suffering of Ethiopians to a foreign audience who in the vain hope that the victims may be helped somehow fund and pretend to respect the authors of all the suffering.

When enough people can be so terrified or so broken under the boot of the state it takes surprisingly little investment to keep a population down. Above all what must be destroyed is any personal or group sense of decency that can't serve the state and therefore by definition is a mortal enemy of the state.

That is why the government faces all of humanity and especially its own people with a default policy of aggressive intimidation and lies. The reign of Mengistu was quite simply Zemene Awre - the Era of the Beast. He just killed and destroyed.

The reign of Meles is Zemene Ashattir - the Era of the Trickster / Liar. Both are faces of evil and are indeed just defined portions on a continuum of suffering. Meles is far smarter than Mengistu was. Actually given a chance Mengistu could have duplicated every act that made Meles a darling of the West.

But, Mengistu lost the which communist will rule Ethiopia contest and history is cruel to losers - it is only more cruel to those upon whose lives such games are played out.

Ever wonder why after 1991 there was never a Truth and Reconciliation Committee in Ethiopia as in South Africa? Or do you wonder why there was no equivalent of de-Nazification or de-Baathification with national discussion about what made Mengistu so bad and what needed to be done differently for the future?

The reason is simple and it is the same reason that the trials of Derg era criminals are taking forever. Simply put - for Meles to take Mengistu to task in a formal manner involving courts, witnesses, truth and obvious questions of philosophy and meaning - would tear apart the justification for the rule of the government of Meles itself.

No matter what this government ever said it kept the entire police state apparatus of Mengistu alive and even refined it. We have heard stories about the fall of Mengistu when all informers were asked to line up outside of kebeles on the same day. They all knew there were files in there with their names on them and Ethiopian bureaucrats of every kind keep records with religious fervor.

So we are told the kebeles and police stations had tens of thousands lined up outside. We aren't sure this story is true but somehow feel it should be. It is believable because the same thing happened in East Germany after the wall fell when it was found that up to one in five adult East Germans had informed on friends, family and colleagues to state security.

Unlike the German example of coming to terms with and rejecting that totalitarian past in its Nazi and Communist forms, the new Ethiopian government just got everyone to work for them after that display of power. Mengistu's kebeles always had copies in TPLF controlled Tigray organized down to the household level. The same model was sent out to Oromia and now to Amhara areas doing Mengistu's work ever more efficiently.

Putting Mengistu's government on trial beyond the level of occasional headlines for a gullible press and propaganda purposes is not forthcoming because that would also necessarily put the government of Meles on trial. What they haven't copied already from Mengistu is on reserve for future contingencies.

To what purpose but only that of the government? The good people of Tigray did not take the front lines of the war against the Dergue so that party cadres could use their good name to visit the same suffering they felt at the hands of the Dergue on themselves forever and on their fellow Ethiopians.

Tigrayans did not fight to assure that the ownership of all land would be in the hands of the tiniest and most selfish aristocracy in Ethiopian history. Tigrayans did not die for the EPRDF business empire.

Every manner of totalitarian manipulation described here falls most heavily on Tigrayans today. The government wants them estranged from others assuming they will remain loyal out of fear of every other alternative.

While other Ethiopians may occasionally fall through the cracks of the security apparatus and its nets - no Tigrayans are allowed to without paying a fearsome price.

The only thing that Meles Inc. fears more than any number of free Ethiopians anywhere is even a few free Ethiopians from Tigray anywhere - they are the original victims of Meles Inc.

It is only the fact that Ethiopia's current permanent revolutionary feudal aristocracy believes only in itself that the vast majority of religious Ethiopians of every kind are even tolerated minimally - there is always the fear that believing in something else other than revolutionary democracy makes them dangerous.

If Meles Inc. believed in God they would be devoting all of their energies to making Mary suspicious of Jesus and to making Jesus forsake God. They would have long ago planted lies and cadres to divide and rule among the angels (admittedly this colorful example falls apart here because getting a cadre into heaven would of course be impossible) with the ultimate aim of sitting on the throne of heaven themselves and declaring a revolutionary democratic existence.

It is Ethiopia's misfortune and the world's blessing that only 70 million odd humans instead of over 6 billion are under the thumb of Meles and his minions. In most countries with bad governments and good, corrupt and honest - rulers all over the world wake up every morning with at least some vague idea of what they want to do for their people.

Ethiopia's ruler's wake up from a fitful sleep of nightmares where they are running and trying to escape Ethiopians who loathe their rulers. They spend their days doing no more than anything at all that needs to be done to stay in power for another day at any cost. Above all they know that if they ever give all those Ethiopians a chance they are finished - they know that even better after losing the election.


Gourmets of Human Fear and Vanity

Yet Ethiopians right in the belly of the beast find the strength to resist. We find it deeply offensive that the most free, the most rich and the most enfranchised group of Ethiopians in existence - those in the West - have among them those feeble and corrupt few who so value their own personal relations with despotism that they sell themselves cheaply or at any price to such despots.

As the angry writer and the reluctant witnesses at the beginning of this post said, it may be easy for us to say but it is also far less easy on all the opposition leaders in jail threatened with death, all the students and workers shot dead, all the peasants whose votes are punished by having their land and credit taken away and all of their families who have no future beyond the limits of the boot of Meles Inc.

A cadre in the US or Western Europe is like a bird so used to being in a cage that it cherishes that cage, carries it along and finds comfort in it everywhere even though it exists only in its own mind - seeking permission from the other side of the planet even to leave its perch.

Think it is so hard to say no? Try taking a fraction of the risk that Ethiopians took for countless centuries against invaders and occupiers. Imagine the risk Ethiopians take today to be heard back home.

All humans have every manner of issues certainly, but when those issues and weaknesses serve to provide consent both actual and implicit in lives in the freedom of the West and most especially in lives in Ethiopia - that is obscenity.

The sense of isolation and inevitability created by victims of North American and Western European killil cadres is utterly misplaced. First of all most Ethiopians abroad would not put up with it. Those that do aren't alone.

The government, as we have said countless times, has set up a social contract between itself and the West that excludes Ethiopians. But in the West Ethiopians can be heard and they have rights.

Anyone who feels the hand of that dictatorship in the diaspora should do something about it. Call cadres and agents and spies exactly what they are. There is no need to fight about it but just stop playing their game and feeding their pitiful sense of power.

Threats and the like, either to those back home or to those abroad based on opinions or actions held by residents and citizens of free societies abroad are illegal by the laws of every society welcoming the diaspora. Let law enforcement from local police and district attorneys to national players such as politicians, the press and federal authorities know about it.

Doing so anonymously does not make sense obviously but as much circumspection as asked for can be given. In the West as residents or citizens your rights and concerns matter. When enough are heard and the networks of dictatorship operating abroad are no longer a dirty little secret they will decay away into the muck from which they came.

All of you and Ethiopians back home will be just that much safer and more free ... and remember most Ethiopians in the diaspora would never put up with that nonsense to begin with. Those who most desperately need an exit are the agents of the Ethiopian government themselves - whoever you are and whatever the reason you are an agent - the laws of free societies can protect you too. You too can escape mental slavery.

If Ethiopians took on Mussolini's tanks with rifles, spears and their bare hands while being bombarded with poison gas - then certainly Ethiopians in the diaspora can make it clear that a tiny army of puffed up cadres carrying out its foul deeds in their midst is totally unacceptable.