Monday, August 21


Meles, Meles, Meles can't you see
Sometimes your words just hypnotize me
And I just love your flashy ways
Guess that's why they're broke, and you're so paid

lyrics mangled with apologies to The Notorious B.I.G.


We remember saying that we wouldn't be back until September but just couldn’t help noting the latest policy paper from Prime Minister Meles. Right away reading African Development: Dead Ends and New Beginnings (PDF file) becomes a surreal experience when just past the title the reader is warned that
[t]he author is the Prime Minister of Ethiopia. The views expressed are personal and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the Government.
Yeah right - and The Little Red Book had nothing to do with the Cultural Revolution either. We’re talking about a dictatorship here - he may have a very like minded politburo to keep content (when they behave) but the very idea that reality in Ethiopia is not defined by the wishes of Meles is absurd.

Ethiopian Review appropriately focuses on the introduction
The political and economic renaissance of Africa is an issue that continues to preoccupy Africans' and non-Africans alike. Various methods of achieving such a renaissance have been proposed. Most of these proposals are variations of the dominant neo-liberal paradigm of development.

My argument is that the neo-liberal paradigm is a dead end, is incapable of bringing about the African renaissance, and that a fundamental shift in paradigm is required to bring about the African renaissance.
First off, Meles is trying to speak for all of Africa here to give his arguments weight - quite inappropriately. With a very few exceptions Ethiopia is by far the worst off of her continent mates.

Specifically in terms of Ethiopia, if one assumes that freedom and freedom from want are the objectives being spoken of - as they are for most civilized governments - then there has indeed been a massive failure. However, if one assumes that eternal rule for Meles and the corporate expansion of Meles Inc. is the issue - then Ethiopian governance has been a resounding success.

Let's get the whole thesis of the paper straight before we dive in any deeper ... Ethiopia is the poorest country on earth, getting poorer every year (aside from planted headlines spread with the cooperation of 'reporters' who have never heard of fact checking) and is kept afloat by donors because the 'dominant neo-liberal paradigm of development is a dead end'.

Not because Ethiopia is ruled by a dictatorship founded on tribal bantustans while dominated by ethnic, regional and religious government machinations. Not because the ruling party openly owns a business empire that dominates the economy at every level while being 'regulated' by a government it entirely controls that also maintains a monopoly of much of the rest of the economy.

Not because inherent structural corruption by design has made Ethiopia one of the most corrupt environments for governance and economics on the whole planet. Not because there are no private property rights and hostility to investment has made foreign investment amongst the very lowest on earth. Not because increasing amounts of money from Ethiopian pockets and from foreign aid end up in foreign bank accounts.

Not because abundant native dynamism in every sphere of society is seen as a threat to the rule of a permanent feudal revolutionary aristocracy that requires submission for any to earn their daily bread. Not because the planned poverty resulting from all of the above has stripped 70 million Ethiopians of the right to be their own government's constituents in favor of foreign aid donors who are more malleable.

You see dear reader, Ethiopia is apparently suffering because the 'dominant neo-liberal paradigm of development is a dead end'. This rejection fits in neatly with the ruling party claim that Ethiopia "is not ready for liberal democracy" - at least not any that goes beyond the bounds of theater. It also sounds suspiciously like previous revolutionary democratic rejections of capitalism except for 'crony markets'.

After all, once you get past the fancy terminology like 'neo-liberalism' what is really being discussed is good old fashioned capitalism - which has produced more wealth for more people and that has been the foundation for more free societies than any economic / political system in history.

What Ethiopians have always needed more of is capitalism. They already have the other ingredients for national success - their abundant will, talents and most importantly shares of the very same human mind that was given opportunity to thrive elsewhere that it was denied in Ethiopia.

Let us repeat ... the PM was a supporter of two generations of Marxist-Leninist-Maoist policies - there was no difference in economic and social outlook between the MLLT (Marxist Leninist League of Tigray) and Mengistu until 1990. Before then their argument was over which group of Communists was the most genuine.

Meles touched up Ethiopian economics a bit lately with 'crony market' reforms to fool the imperialist camp of aid donors (it was probably a more efficient way to siphon money from the economy as well). Now he has decided that he has enough wisdom to say that the one economic political system that has actually brought billions of humans to greater peace, freedom and prosperity is no good compared to some great new paradigm of his own invention.

Of course, it is safe to assume that the solution will involve his ongoing rule of the country as well.

This newest essay is not directed at any Ethiopian audience nor to anyone remotely familiar with Ethiopia - even cadres of Meles Inc. are far too addled by storms of lies and beaten by the rocks of reality to take it at all seriously. The audience is foreign aid donors, bureacrats and academics who may have been dismayed by the violent results of a Potemkin democracy over last year and who may yet stand ready to be impressed by one of their still favorite dictators and his oh so cutely irrepressible intellectualism.

This newest intellectual schtick may have abandoned revolutionary catchphrases such as 'revolutionary democracy' and 'la lutta continua' in preference for more acceptable development / progressive catchphrases (and some new ones - aid is now policy rent!?) - but it is just as absurd and just as self justifying (with no welcome and diverting mentions of Tina Turner this time around).

Some folks assume that a concept or idea that is difficult to understand has some intrinsic value.

Exactly the opposite is true. Ever country that has become rich, is well on the way of becoming so, or that is escaping poverty has done so by doing exactly the opposite of what Meles Inc. is doing. This may all be an example of what Bono was talking about when he said of the PM that “[h]e is a regarded macro-economist, believe it or not” - we choose to believe NOT based on all evidence.

Actually, we firmly believe that Meles is intelligent and canny enough to know exactly what needs to be done to make Ethiopian both free and free from want. However, he chooses to do none of it so that he can rule indefinitely, amass wealth, indulge his atavistic ideological and tribal obsessions as well as carry out the attendant compulsion to control every Ethiopian mind everywhere while being celebrated by ferenjis.

Just below is the conclusion of the paper. It will give you a rather clear picture of the dearth of logic that awaits the unaware reader - unless said reader is providing her own laugh track while considering THE NEW PARADIGM
Rebuilding the state as part of the implementation of the democratic developmentalist paradigm must also include launching the state on a trajectory of vibrant and dynamic democracy. Transforming the rent-seeking political economy will eliminate the zero-sum politics associated with it and hence create the basis for sustainable democratization.

Dismantling networks of patronage particularly, in the urban areas, promotion of independent farmers organizations based on production rather than patronage is a key to establish a stable agrarian democracy in Africa.

Rebuilding the legislature, judiciary and executive along democratic lines, inculcating democratic values through civic education and civic engagement via associations of horizontal linkage are also essential elements of transforming and rebuilding the African state.
Huh? What? So that's what Ethiopians should have been doing all along! Hallelujah! Why hasn't anyone thought of this before? Alas, this is not the first time such ideological silliness and meaningless verbiage has been the basis of Ethiopian government. Consider this other strikingly similiar and equally absurd moment of tragi-comedy from 2001 on the subject of REVOLUTIONARY DEMOCRACY
Upholding the principles of revolutionary democracy could be significant in ensuring the independence of the judiciary, strengthening unity and tackling threats posed to the well being of the nation, cadres and members of the Harari national league said.

At the conclusion of a five day discussion held under the title, "the question of democracy in Ethiopia" the participants said on Monday that revolutionary democracy was the only development strategy that could fit for the objective reality in the country.

In the absence of accumulated capital, advanced technology and skilled manpower it would be difficult to adopt the principles of liberal democracy, they said.

The principles of revolutionary democracy could effectively address the basic needs of the Ethiopian people by stumping out the bane of corruption, nepotism and abuse of power, the members said.

They said revolutionary democracy could also encourage the direct participation of the people in the nation building process.

Upholding the principles of equality based on diversity and establishing harmonious relationships among the peoples of Ethiopia were the corner stones to speed up economic development, the members indicated.

They also vowed to fight narrow nationalism, chauvinism and corruption, which they described as the major threat to the whole of the country.
All that is missing from both of the above magical descriptions of the 'new paradigm' and of 'revolutionary democracy' respectively is the ability to remove stubborn grass stains from clothes, to end global warming and to master the space-time continuum.

Of course, like the formula for Coca Cola, the secret formula for the new paradigm and for revolutionary democratic miracles can not be revealed - simple mortals like us can only get to hear about the paradise on earth that is being promised. We just have to trust Meles, that is all - his ways like his logic are mysterious but all will be well in the end if we let him do everything that he wants.

Both those twinned statements certainly read like a parody of bureaucratic language or of a revolutionary movement or like an equally amusing and absurd post-modern analysis of any subject.

Any reader of both ideological catechisms from Meles Inc. rule is being subjected to an attempt to hypnotize her or to just dull the mind with a flurry of words that mean nothing. The effect is to be positively Orwellian. Such absurdity when taken seriously makes all words and the very concept of truth lose meaning.

For example, here are a few more quite specific, non-sensical and self serving gems to justify the bloody status quo.
Democracy in Africa has to be an agrarian one if it is to be stable and capable of evolving into a mature urban based one.
The choice, then is between governments that can achieve some popular legitimacy, whether or not these are multi-party democracies in a Western liberal sense of the term, and the collapse of ordered states into anarchy”.
Very few developmental states have been democratic. In Africa, the external circumstances are such that a developmentalist state will also have to be a democratic one.

African countries are being forced to democratize not only because of the appeal of democracy as a form of governance but also because it has become a condition for getting adequate policy rent.
You see? Democracy only matters as a condition for policy rent. Policy rent was formerly known as foreign aid a.k.a. protection money or ransom for Ethiopians because donors have to beg and threaten the government to treat its own people with even minimal decency.

What is agrarian democracy anyway? Is it something like the current rural system of government in Ethiopia today where brutal Committees for the Defense of the Revolution also known as Kebeles & Rural Associations maintain controls down to the household level on every aspect or peasant life?

Is agrarian democracy something like the even more repressive Gott and Garee System that started 30 years ago by the TPLF in Tigray and has now spread to Oromo regions and beyond? Under Gott and Garee units of just a few households all have spies who report to Kebele authorities.

According to Human Rights Watch "[o]fficials placed in charge of the gott and garee have been implicated in numerous violations of human rights. These include imposing fines and even imprisonment without due process, forced or compulsory labor, and restrictions on the rights to freedom of association, movement and expression."

HRW also notes that the already horrible situation in rural Ethiopia has actually gotten worse in the report Ethiopia: Hidden Crackdown in Rural Areas. The reports says
In the wake of the May 15 [2006] parliamentary elections, in which opposition parties won an unprecedented number of seats amidst massive controversy over the election results, federal police in the Oromia and Amhara regions have threatened, beaten and detained opposition supporters, students and people with no political affiliation, often in nighttime raids.

Alongside local government officials and members of local government-backed militias, the federal police have taken the lead in intimidating and coercing opposition supporters.
That sure does not smell like agrarian democracy to us. Or ... does agrarian democracy have something to do with the fact that Ethiopian grain yields are falling despite massive fertilizer use - only distributed by party / government company stores. Peasants are always in debt and indeed are subject to debt bondage.

Indebtedness is then used as a potent weapon to supress rural dissent in combination with total life insecurity based on the lack of private ownership of land. Negussay Ayele in Norway, Ethiopia and the Yara foundation (PDF file) gets into some of the details of that oppressive and corrupt system.

Having said all of the above, we must wonder at the following, almost Freudian slip into straight analysis.
Establishing such a solid democratic developmentalist base in the rural areas is going to require dismantling patronage networks, promoting the establishment of a dense network of independent farmers organizations and associations based on production and making sure that external assistance supplements the developmental effort of such associations rather than overwhelming them in an environment of patronage.
Kind of makes sense right - but the problem is that patronage networks are what Ethiopian governance is all about! Ethiopian farmers, meaning most Ethiopians are at best sharecroppers and more accurately serfs of the one party state that owns all their land - and far from prying donor eyes can do anything that it wants to them at all. Meles Inc. then goes on to beg for more aid calling upon pity for its principal victims. More silliness follows ...
Democracy in Africa has to be an agrarian one if it is to be stable and capable of evolving into a mature urban based one. Hence the political and economic aspects of the project crucially depend on solid grass-roots base in the rural areas.
If you accept the logic that democracy should start rurally and you notice that there is absolutely none in rural areas then it follows that Ethiopia will never have any form of democracy - or prosperity for that matter.

Understand the Melesian logic here: if 'bad' urban democracy which is only forced on the government because of 'policy rent' is disappointing to government aims, then the emphasis on 'good' and even more non-existent rural democracy provides cover from 'policy renters' who may see bodies fall in Addis Ababa but won't even know how many fall in rural Sidamo or Gondar or Tigray.

Last but not least ... here is another droplet of new paradigm styled wisdom ...
A fundamental transformation and building up of the state is thus bound to be a central tenet of the paradigm.

The state will have to be strengthened primarily by transforming it from the locus of personal wealth accumulation to an effective instrument of restructuring the playing field and enforcing the new rules of productive investment.

That will require a change in outlook and attitude among state personnel, the creation of a new developmental ethics within the state, and the acquisition of the necessary skills to deliver the required service
No, the only way to meet those requirements is a new government - the one elected last year is still available although imprisoned. The current government is by every definition nothing but a "locus of personal wealth accumulation" defended by vicious secret police and murderous gunmen.

Remember, the open espousement of revolutionary democracy nonsense may be over but it is all still very much alive - this whole paper by Meles (or whoever) is just another part of a two decade old effort to fool 'the imperialist camp' (Meles Inc. still mourns for the way the Cold War ended) into funding the purposes of revolutionary democracy.

If all the decades of writing on revolutionary democracy was really just a collection of “Quotes from Chairman Meles” then this new effort at establishing a renaissance of willingness to send money and give unquestioning support to Meles Inc. in the often too willingly gullible donor / bureaucrat / academic mind is really just a better written and edited “Quotes from C.E.O. Meles”. For that matter, perhaps “Little Green Book” (dollar bills green that is) is a more appropriate title.

How much do you want to bet that 'the fundamental shift in paradigm' called for will end up with billions of dollars, euros and yen flowing into Meles Inc.?

This book / monograph may not go double-platinum like Biggie's albums but will definitely continue the tradition of double-lead from AK-47s to make Ethiopians pay a price in blood, sweat and tears. Ethiopian governance meets none of the preconditions for economic growth nor does it meet any preconditions for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness as it may be understood anywhere.

This 'new paradigm' is unmistakably an opportunistic evolution of the already opportunistic 'revolutionary democracy' styled for different times, audiences and circumstances. But ... don't take our word for it.

Read our post Revolutionary Democracy for a look at the old version and then read African Development: Dead Ends and New Beginnings (PDF file) for the new and improved version.

Friday, August 11

The World Is Yours VIII - Don't Hate the Player, Hate the Game

Went into the store just to get a beer. Came out an accessory to murder and armed robbery. It's funny like that in the hood sometimes. You never knew what was gonna happen, or when.

Caine, the accessory to murder in Menace II Society, gets all philosophical and blames fate - bet he kept his share of the loot though.


Picture the setting: Ethiopia is considered one of the most corrupt countries on the planet according to Transparency International, the ruling party actually owns a business empire that dominates the economy at every level, it is a dictatorship where the party absolutely controls government and jealous government monopolies at every level, the same government owns all of the land in the country while the tiny nepotistic gang / fellow traveler cronies at the top control a brutal machine of coercion and violence that pretends to regulate itself while siphoning off billions of Euros and Dollars in foreign aid.

Yet and still - corruption is occasionally 'discovered' and becomes everyone else's fault but that of those closest to the Prime Minister. For example, in Billions of birr [hundreds of millions of dollars] missing from the Ethiopian budget, Ethiopian Review quotes this from
ADDIS FORTUNE reported last week that the Auditor General of Ethiopia, Lemma Argaw, presented a report to the Parliament exposing that 4.8 billion birr that were allocated by the federal government to regional administrations could not be accounted for. Ato Lemma received a tongue-lashing from Meles Zenawi who accused the Auditor General of interfering in the internal affairs of regional governments.

Here is an excerpt of a report by ADDIS FORTUNE: "Alas, the Prime Minister did not mince his words when he told a dumbfounded, although subdued House, that regional administrations had the authority that could go as far as burning the money they received as subsidies from the federal government, if there was to be an article in their constitution allowing for that to happen."
Yeah, right - we are sure it was an impressive performance. To begin with of all the billions in cash are probably not really missing as far as Ethiopia's Revolutionary Feudal Aristocracy is concerned ... the money is right where it belongs - in their very own pockets, or in the hands of foreign arms dealers, lobbyists and agents.

One must also wonder how the news about missing billions got out to begin with from the utterly non-transparent and frankly crooked confines of Meles Inc. It is certainly just a fraction of the total stolen and sent abroad as this other Ethiopian Review link shows, Cash exodus from Ethiopia to Europe increased by 103%: Third World cash exodus 'points to laundering' (via The Independent). So ... why admit anything bad is going on?

Is it all a pre-emptive 'leak' to make a show of honesty or it could be a prelude to a purge of whoever is about to be blamed for the government's standard operating procedure of corruption. Or ... since the World Bank and London are sending other billions in real money directly to regional tribal bantustans - calling those creatures of the center corrupt, could facilitate the ease of aid cash to the supposedly relatively 'honest' center.

Or, by asserting the independence of the bantustans, donors are being assured of their independence from the corrupt center - the donors don't believe any of this dog and pony show but every little bit of cover helps when you are financing a dictatorship.

Seriously readers, the term 'byzantine' as a description of complex plans is inadequate in present day Ethiopia. A neoligism such as 'melesian' is needed to describe the Gibee's arcane & bloody schemes that operate an order of magnitude beyond what humanity has heretofore experienced in terms of deceit and manipulation.

The simple truth of it all is that the players in Meles Inc. make the game up as they go along and the only consistent rule is that Meles always rules and those closest to him always get richer. No aristocracy in Ethiopian history has ever concentrated so much wealth in so few hands.

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?.

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 part of a section concerned with the use of corruption charges as a political weapon.


Crusade Against Corruption

It is in the decay of “Bonapartism” that Mr. Meles finds a niche for his opponents. The Tewolde-Siye group, he alleged, wanted to enthrone their own “Rotten Bonapartism” with its rampant corruption. As he did in 1996, when he ousted former Prime Minister, Tamrat Layne, Mr. Meles embarked on an anti-corruption crusade of a very selective nature against the dissidents of the TPLF, and their close relatives. By the beginning of June, 2001, some 25 persons were fenced in.

The Prime Minister started his corruption clean up with his major rival, former defence minister, Siye Abraha who is one of the leaders of the TPLF dissidents opposed to Prime Minister Meles Zenawi. Siye, who was previously expelled from the Politburo and the Central Committee, has. been dismissed as EFFORT Chairperson and replaced by Meles’ loyalist Arkebe Ouqubye. Furthermore, Siye no longer heads the Ethiopian Airlines. His immediate family whom the Prime Minister put in jail were all accused of financial embezzlement. They include Siye himself as well as his siblings - Assefa, Feseha and Mehreteab. Mehreteab and Feseha were shareholders in the Mefam Company. Asefa was previously given the lucrative position of the Privatisation Agency with the rank of Minister where kickbacks are not only common but are transferred in huge sums.

Trusted friends carried out transactions among themselves with the prices artificially fixed and rolled down from their market value. One case involved the sale of the oldest Royal Hotel in Addis Ababa, the Itege Hotel worth perhaps 20 million birr being sold at a puny price of less than 4 million birr. Siye’s elder brother, Asmelash who is a retired soldier and his sister Temnet who owns a company that imports medical products were accused of involvement in the illegal transactions carried out by their brother.

That Meles was very serious in getting his rivals was known when his officials started to probe into their foreign bank accounts. One reliable analyst of the region reports:

The Ethiopian authorities discretely approached a couple of Western embassies in Addis Ababa to try to find the trace of foreign bank accounts that party dissidents might be sheltering abroad. Naturally, the primary suspects are the leaders of the dissidents, starting with former defence minister Siye Abraha, and closely followed by the prime minister’s former adviser, Alemseged Gebreamlak, and thereafter, by Siye Abraha’s brothers who run businesses in a number of different sectors (transportation, drink distribution) in the North of the country.... Evidence of fraud is also being collected on military equipment contracts involving Siye Abraha, Assefa Abraha, and Fitur Zeab, who [has since] defected to Canada, as well as generals and officers of the air force.

That Meles uses corruption to get his rivals but turns a blind eye to those transgressions involving his friends and relatives became clear when warnings involving massive corruption around him were simply ignored. A report regarding this incident states:
A few months ago, an official of the Société Générale de Surveillance (SGS) unearthed a huge traffic of non-payment of taxes and informed the Ethiopian authorities thereof, but the local official of the Geneva-based company got the impression that nothing came thereof, unless it was the feeling of having mixed into affairs that was none of its business.
Other people who were alleged accomplices of the officials who were accused of corruption and were also incarcerated include - Bitew Belay, former commissioner of regional affairs in the prime minister's office, several high-level management of the Commercial Bank of Ethiopia and various managers of companies including the Star Business Group, which is an importer of sugar and salt, and an exporter of coffee to the United States whose general manager Worku Merga was accused of benefiting from a near-total monopoly on the importation of sugar to Ethiopia. The SBG is alleged to have profited from predisposed advantages engineered by officials of the regime who have been put behind bars.

The corruption charge did not stop with government officials and their connections in the private and semi-private sector. It extended to the military where there was challenge to Mr. Meles’ power. In November; 2000, as part of the reform of the civil service, a central body was set up to coordinate anti-corruption activity. Subsequently, in January 2001, charges were laid against Air Force officers and senior police functionaries in Addis Ababa, four of whom were charged with corruption

Then Meles Zenawi took the high horse to the military that he initially instructed should be outside politics. On March 27, 2001, he met high-ranking military officers [ officers holding the rank of colonel and above, ] in Addis Ababa under the chairmanship of General Tadesse Gawa, head of the army’s Educational Administration Department and explained to them that the positions of the 12 dissidents ousted from the central committee of the TPLF had been condemned and that any member of the military who espoused or supported the dissident's point of view would be immediately expelled from the army.

Some, including the Army Chief of Staff General Tsadkan Gebre Tensay were not happy that politics was being planted in the army ranks. So the fist casualty in the military was none other than Tsadkan himself. He was soon arrested on suspicion of attempting to stage a coup to overthrow the Prime Minister. Tsadkan was not alone in being detained.

As a first precaution, Meles made sure that members of the military should not join political parties so as to keep their neutrality in cases of crises in the government. He had also passed an order as soon as the crisis emerged into the open that the army should never take action until it receives orders directly from the Prime Minister and Commander in Chief of the armed forces, which happens to be himself. General Tsadkan took that at face value and showed disappointment when the Prime Minister came to the military to gain support for his side. Meles considered this insubordination. So, General Tsadkan was put under house arrest. Later it was reported that he was apprehended in connection with an abortive coup d’état. He was then charged with getting involved in an unauthorized export of coffee as well as trading in sugar that involved conflict of interest, since he was the chairman of the Board of Directors of the Ethiopian Sugar Corporation. Meles’ people accuse him of illegally selling sugar to the Star Business Group (SBG) and businesswoman Yeshareg Zewde, proprietor of the Geta Trading firm.

Yeshareg was in addition said to have enriched herself during Ethiopia's war with Eritrea by handling oil transportation for the Ethiopian military forces. She has also been charged for having bought a government flourmill for 41 million birrs, a price reckoned far below its market value. She has since been charged and put under arrest. The police have now closed the offices of SBG and Geta. General Tsadkan’s younger brother, Abraham Gebre Tensay, and his half brother Tezera Gesese were also accused of having been involved in the importation of trucks that skirted the scrutiny of the taxation office. General Tsadkan’s wife has been tied to the Star business Group. All [except Tsadkan’s wife who is related to Meles’ ally, Sebhat Nega] were put behind bars.

Mr. Meles’ vehement opponent in the SEPDF movement and a supporter of the Tewolde-Siye faction, Abate Kisho, and several other directors of his regional administration have also been arrested on corruption charges. Bitew Belay. SBG’s general manager, Worku Nega, a big share holder in the Bank of Abyssinia have all been thrown into prison for alleged embezzlement of US$10 million. It is interesting that, SBG was previously cited by a report of the commerce department of the United States embassy in Addis Ababa as an exemplary new Ethiopian private enterprise. Also included among companies accused of corruption whose chief managers have been apprehended is Mesfin Company.

Meles does not stop accusing his opponents of corruption even if the proof is dubious. For example, as soon as he was at loggerheads with the President of the Republic, the government media accused Dr. Negasso Gidada of refusing to discuss questions of corruption. However, he had actually stated when he was confronting Meles in the EPRDF:
If there is a suspicion of corruption in the EPRDF ranks, let the property of everyone of us .... be accounted for in banks, in our homes, and among our families by neutral persons. And let not officials escape the scrutiny taking parliamentary immunity.
The independent press [a shadow of this independence no longer exists] has pointed out the proliferation of corruption not long after the TPLF came to power. Nevertheless, the warning was never heeded. The Prime Minister however, took the matter up only when he had to face his opponents on March 23, 2001. On this occasion, the Prime Minister publicly castigated the Tewolde-Siye group of refusing to recognize that "the absence of democracy and the existence of corruption" are jeopardizing the position of the political system and the TPLF itself.

Even though Mr. Meles presents the problem only in relation to his rivals in the EPRDF, he cannot escape the fact that some of his trusted friends and members of his family are also suspects. Indeed, this is a matter bout which no group, whether the expelled one or the remaining leadership can successfully claim to be clean.

The Meles camp has treated corruption as one in which a person illegally enriches himself or nepotism, or using one's power to harm others. What that means is that it is not simply personal. It can also be organizational. The Prime Minister may have his proofs against the Tewolde -Siye faction but the vexing question is, can the governing Politburo and Central Committee prove that they are innocent of the accusations against their own group’s financial malpractices? In actual fact, the independent press has for long pointed a finger at some of Mr. Meles’ government supporters that hold high profile positions that they are prone to nepotism. Among those mentioned often are Dawit Zewde, Genet Zewde and Duri Mohamed.

Meles may also find some of his own family members implicated in monetary scandals. including fraudulent practices such as tax evasion and the resale on the local market of products earmarked for export. There have been reported cases of huge non-payment of taxes that have been recorded abroad and informed to the Ethiopian authorities; but the matter was dismissed as a non-issue. This comes as no surprise because some of the individuals involved are suspected to be members of the prime minister's inner circle.

Those targeted in this connection include the PM's brother, Nikodimos Zenawi, who, in 1991, was just an ordinary employee earning 460 birr a month, but is now considered to be one of the richest men in the capital. The supporters of the dissidents claim that Meles' wife, Azeb [Lemlem] Gola, who was former head of the Mega Net firm, benefited from untaxed imports and currently exchange violations. Foreign minister Seyoum Mesfin's 23-year-old son, Benyam Mesfin, who owns a fleet of Swedish made Scania brand trucks they also charge, has amassed millions of dollars in the last few years and should be part of those to be investigated.

But wielding his whipping instrument, the allegation of corruption, Mr. Meles was determined not to let his rivals off the hook. When the courts released Siye and the other individuals who were sent to jail on bail, he used the Parliament to block the action. The EPRDF dominated Ethiopian House of representatives was presented with a bill that retroactively prevented freeing the dissidents imprisoned on corruption charges. The bill was adopted almost unanimously by the 348 MP’s present only four of whom abstained. Siye who was released on bail was again locked up. The Prime Minister has also made parliament pass a proclamation dealing with Ethics and Anti-Corruption that would be run by his office and makes the matter an executive not a legislative matter. Mr. Meles is therefore an autocrat who uses Stalinist instruments only to purge his opponents.


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, August 7

Meles's Not So Excellent Adventure

These two make more sense ... and 70 million people don't have to go along with them either.

So what is going on in Somalia anyway you may ask? We are surprised you wonder because since the early 90s the only time that the whole world actually noticed events in Southern Somalia was when "Blackhawk Down" was released five years ago.

You see, trouble in Somalia was ordained by the absurd national mission forced down Somali throats without interruption from independence on by a succession of dictators - that all collapsed in 1991. That ersatz national destiny required the conquest of all of its more populated and powerful neighbors along with 'Revolutionary Democracy' style idiocies such as 'Somali Scientific Socialism' justifying the dictatorship of a few.

Such silly ideology was bad enough but along with a commitment to eternal war it can be no surprise that Somalis had little chance from the beginning and caused its neighbors quite a bit of bother, Ethiopia in particular. Even though Northern Somalia was able to escape what became a tradition of chaos, Southern Somalia became and remains a mess. Since then there has been a steady, almost imperceptible background drum beat of non crisis like stories about warlords, piracy, entrepreneurs providing basic services where there was no government, secret Al Quaeda training camps and the like.

In the past month or so that has all changed big time.

Where to start ... where to start .... OK, the Usual Suspect Clan Warlords (USCW) lost a battle for control of Mogadishu and eventually most of the region to the New Jack Islamist Warlords (NJIW) that we certainly had never heard of. Not only that, but the US was allegedly helping the USCW and Ethiopia definitely was helping them. Oh, and Eritrea was aggressively arming the NJIW in a bid to outflank Meles Inc (actually at this point it seems, just to mess with Ethiopia for hell of it).

The NJIW commenced immediately to vigorously attack Coca Cola drinkers, movie watchers, soccer fans, all females of our species and all men who did not immediately realize what they should have known all along. Namely that if the NJIW said jump - the only appropriate response was an ecstatic and obedient "how high?" Just imagine - the NJIW made even the USCW and Siad Barre 'regimes' look like great liberal democracies in a matter of days.

According to the USCW, Eritrea was joined by Egypt and Saudi Arabia in aiding the NJIW and according to many others the latter had some rather unsavory connections to international terror. As the USCW were being chased across the region, the UN backed (alert the media!), Ethiopian supported, For Real Somali Government in Internal Exile (FRSGIE) welcomed Ethiopian troops sent by Meles Inc. into Baidoia (the FRSGIE capital) and environs.

Meles Inc., however, denied it was attempting any hostile takeovers at all. The FRSGIE said that it was all a mistake due to Ethiopian donated uniforms on its own soldiers while Meles Inc. denied the whole thing with the same straight face it used to deny everything from blocking blogs onto keeping 70 million hostages. A few tame reporters claimed to see nothing but there could have been a legion of Galactic Storm Troopers straight from the Clone Wars right next door for all they were allowed to see.

An old Soviet cargo plane from Kazakhstan loaded with Eritrean arms landed in Mogadishu with goodies for the NJIW along with possibly hundreds of Eritrean troops. FRSGIE ministers started getting killed by somebody, many FRSGIE membere resigned in protest against Meles Inc. troop deployments, some USCW changed sides several times and claimed to be winning and the NJIW declared a jihad against Ethiopia.

Meles Inc. wanted to change the subject from its own bloody dictatorship to just about anything else to finance itself ... and 'fighting terrorism' was rather conveniently waiting right there next door ... especially as the US Congress was considering a bill to sanction the Meles Inc. corporate board for its violent business practices.

The New Jack Islamist Warlords wanted attention ... negative attention from the West and Ethiopia could be turned into positive attention from many other circles in the form of cash ... the invasion by Meles Inc. provided a perfect opportunity to have a real live jihad and to define authentic Somali-ness all at the same time.

This came from Foggy Bottom recently via Nazret
"There are many foreign elements in Somalia right now," U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer said, citing reports Ethiopia was sending troops to back the interim government and Eritrea arms for rival Islamists.

"Neither the Union of Islamic Courts nor the Transitional Federal Government can take the high ground by saying the other is violating Somali sovereignty...they've all invited in foreigners, all been backed by foreign forces," she added.
Unless there is some really deep double game being played here it seems that Meles Inc. went into Somalia all on its own. However much Ethiopia's relatively professional army may dominate the field it is simply crazy to imagine Ethiopia sustaining a force in Somalia over time as foreign opposition mounts. Beyond that the attributes of a regular military force would mean little near or in Mogadishu.

Either the expense or logistics or political cost (or all three), of a sustained fight away from the border are well beyond the capacity of Ethiopia's expeditionary force and regime. It would not be humanitarian concerns like those that held back the UN and the US back in the early 90s that would turn back such an Ethiopian force. Unlike the US Rangers and the UN force that took casualties to spare collateral damage, Meles would not hesitate to raze all of Mogadishu to stay in power and collect cash for another day.

Meles Inc. has given all combative and peaceful Somali's the perfect reason to fight to the bitter end. That marks the criminal error of an invasion that costs almost as much if it doesn't go past the border and nothing is accomplished as if it does achieve its nebulous purposes ... Meles has invaded their country just because he did not approve a their potential government - no Somalis, including the temporary allies of Meles Inc will like that in the end.

Unlike Afghanistan, there is no history here of the NJIW supporting international terror (bombings in Ethiopia are generally carried out by the government and blamed on the villian of the moment). Unlike Iraq there is no history here of flouting the UN or waging aggressive international war or of using WMDs. Unlike with Hezbollah or with Chechnyan Islamists, there is no history of sustained acts of terror.

Meles has invaded Somali without any pretext at all that could be sustained in the most forgiving of forums. Via Nazret, this Economist article makes it clear that even those occasional Meles Inc. apologists aren't letting the wool be pulled over their eyes this time around,
Both the Ethiopians and the Islamists have something to gain from fighting. Ethiopia, which has often meddled in Somalia, is one of the world's oldest Christian-led countries, though it has many Muslims too. A war against militant Islam in the region might make it a useful ally of America, bringing cash and diplomatic support. It would also be quite a coup for the prime minister, Meles Zenawi, since America's Congress recently passed a bill condemning his government as an undemocratic abuser of human rights, which it is.
Does this herald an overall 'coming to their senses' phase for the international media after years of breathlessly false 'at least Meles is making the trains run on something resembling a schedule' and 'what a cute & brave former guerrilla fighter he is' nonsense ... we won't hold our breath waiting but every bit of reality is welcome.

Although we are bound to be sympathetic to long standing Ethiopian interest vis a vis Somalia and although we are also supportive of American interests in the War on Terror it seems to us that the policies of Meles Inc. will make everything far worse for everyone. Previous Ethiopian governments going back centuries (even including the reality and mentally challenged Dergue) avoided invading Somalia and did not even intervene except in the most exigent circumstances - and then only temporarily - without a proxy government to prop up.

Not out of fear mind you, but out of common sense because going into Somalia, just like going into any neighbor is like sticking a hand in a hornet's nest. Meles has gone into Somalia with no provocation on an uncertain mission with no end or even clear aim. One miscalculated purpose is finely tuned to influencing Congress with the current parade of tame supposed 'opposition' politicians while the real ones fear death in jail. Another may be a reflexive sense of competition with the former allies of Meles Inc. in Eritrean government.

Whatever the reason this was not thought out well - unless the reason is just to create and perpetuate crisis and instability with the purpose of being seen by the world as both the guarantor of the status quo and its principal manipulator as well. All to the tune of billions of Euros and Dollars and many more years to collect them and ship them into banks and properties abroad.


One last point about messes that Meles Inc. has and always will be getting Ethiopia and the world into ... because of the tribal based policies and politics of Meles Inc., Ethiopia has become a country which is legally / constitutionally only a barely legitimate collection of bantustans that can become independent at will for any reason at all or for no declared reason at all by anyone from the regional down to the neighborhood level.

In real terms the government uses that potential for chaos as a threat and uses brutal extra-legal means of its own making to hold it all together outside of the absurdities of current 'law'. Like the Sword of Damocles hung over one ruler to teach humility, utter disintegration awaits Ethiopia if it succeeds in getting rid of Meles Inc. - or so Meles Inc. would have us believe - Ethiopia is far more resilient than that.

But ... accepting the espoused logic of Meles and his government ... it seems like the 'Revolutionary Democratic' thing to do would be too ask the people of the Somali Killil what they want and accept that judgement regardless of the larger national interest. They probably wouldn't want to do so but maybe they want to join the Eastern third of Ethiopia immediately to the USCW or the NJIW or to the FRSGIE.

Or given the logic of the Ethiopian constitution, an equally legitimate case is a seat in the UN for any group of kids in Gode or Bishoftu or Adwa or Debre Birhan (or even on Bole Road) who play marbles or soccer together fairly regularly and who feel they have a right to form an independent country. After all, that is what it says in the Meles Inc. constitution right? Confused yet? If you are not you should be.

It is 'governments' and 'leaders' such as these that make us wish conflicts between dictators and aspiring dictators could only be settled by single combat with the victor and vanquished both being shipped off to Devil's Island afterwards. Ethiopia and Somalia (with the exception of Northern Somalia) have never gotten on too well and Somalia has never had a friendly border for that matter.

None of the 'leaders' in question has even a vanishing connection to the interests of the people they supposedly act for. Throughout most of living memory - nation, ideology, tribe, clan and now religion have been the tools of heartless men for the purpose of their personal power.

That is what is up in the Horn of Africa.

Tuesday, August 1

taken for a ride

A Somali civil war with Ethiopian players and / or an Ethio-Somali conflict along with a destabilized Horn of Africa serve the interests of both Somalia's new religious warlords and Meles Inc. rather neatly.

Both have now acquired the 'worthy' opponents of their dreams (and everyone else's nightmares) to justify and excuse all of their myriad crimes - past, present and future - while they fortify and refortify their respective revolutions.

No one else benefits except for the web of aggressive international mayhem that is attempting to hijack Islam (arms dealers and Swiss bankers too). Ethiopians and the donor patrons of Meles Inc. are, in turn, unwillingly and quite willingly being forced to go along for a ride that will end badly ...

... that is except for the top ranks of Ethiopia's Revolutionary Feudal Aristocracy and Somalia's Revolutionary Islamist Warlords. The War on Terror and Ethiopia's future will certainly be damaged.

The comparison that Meles Inc. wants the US to make is with the just American efforts on terror and with the just Israelis efforts against Hezbollah and Hamas. With Ethiopia supposedly firmly on 'Team America', so to speak, all the bothersome noises about elections, human rights and sanctions are expected to end in Washington and Brussels.

Actually, Meles Inc. wants the connection to be made specifically to itself and not to Ethiopia at large. That way, non-regime actors in the opposition whose interests also coincide with Washington as well and who are more reliable allies, will be viewed with suspicion. Meanwhile, a flood of unaccounted for aid from American taxpayers may flow in.

The comparison that the Islamist Warlords wants made is with the same world events. Opposition from the convenient and traditional Ethiopian boogeyman will hopefully translate into cash from all over the Middle East and respect from the same quarters. The invasion was a gift to the Islamist Warlords starved for attention, excuses and arms while the jihad that was declared is a gift to a Meles Inc. in dire need of the same things.

What do the Islamist Warlords want? Well, they want to take over first Southern Somalia, then Northern Somalia & Puntland, then Eastern Ethiopia, Djibouti and Northeastern Kenya. That is all familiar - but in tune with the Islamist movement they want to help take over the world - seriously, they do.

Somalia's current non-government is in their way, their weakness, isolation and Ethiopia is also in their way. Despite popular images and the reality of fractitious Somalia, the North is at peace and the rest has no recent history of religious fervor. Somalia's Civil War has previously been more about clan rivalry than anything else.

Now the Islamists for the first time can say they speak for Somali nationalism wrapped up in religion as well. What the rest of the world and potential supporters might never have noticed is suddenly a religious issue. That suits Meles Inc. just fine - although it wants to control only all Ethiopian lives and souls worldwide, it needs a pretext for treating them all badly in the name of stability.

Militarily in the initial stages of any conflict or even a sitzkrieg, Ethiopian forces that are relatively professional and well supplied will emerge dominant. Over the length of the short term however, it will cost Ethiopia a whole lot of money to maintain an army in Somalia and it is not clear if aid will pay the bills. Even more will be the focused enmity of potential supporters of the new warlords that heretofore either ignored Ethiopia or just occasionally tried to hurt her when convenient.

Indeeed whereas Israel suffered years of provocation and actual military invasion from Lebanon before taking action against Hezbollah, Meles Inc. is acting with no provocation except for disapproval of the winner in the bloody game of Somali politics. Imagine trying to defend that stance in the UN - if it is even noticed there.

Even just pre-emptive wars must have a rational pretext but none can be seen in this conflict.

The major factor in religious friction in Ethiopia (the little there is) is the government itself who rules by tribal, and when convenient, religious divide and rule. The terrorist acts supposedly carried out from Somalia have been blamed over the past years on Haile Sellassie & Dergue loyalists, allegedly genocidal members of the opposition, hooligans and Eritrean agents just to name a few - when convenient Somali's Islamists joined the musical chairs blame game of Gibee propaganda.

Not that the new warlords wouldn't do such a thing mind you - but they haven't yet and you can't just start wars like that. When a regime's rule is predicated on keeping a country poor, weak and divided against tens of millions of internal opponents - starting external conflicts is a design for short term gain from possible American aid and silence on human rights in exchange for how the conflict will leak back in the future.

The failed state dependent on international largesse that Meles Inc. has purposefully created in Ethiopia can't sustain any foreign adventure on its own. Even if general bad feelings from the new warlords had translated into some action, Ethiopia is not rich and secure like the America that can act, almost at will, in Iraq or Afghanistan. America certainly had far more provocation from Al Quaeda and Saddam than the fevered propaganda of Meles Inc. would put on the warlords.

Sticking the collective Ethiopian neck out for the right to oppress Ethiopians while having someone pay for it all serves the regime but no one else including the would be paymasters. It all may work and hold together this week or next month but as the seasons are counted this will prove to be a disaster and a move that strengthened the Islamist warlords beyond measure.

Former Ambassador Herman Cohen agrees that Meles Inc. routinely makes up stories about Somali and Sudanese terror links to silence American criticism on all fronts. No one in Washington except for folks in Congress and the Ethiopian diaspora seems to take a democratic face for Meles Inc. seriously so the Islamist victories are seen as all that is needed to shut down H.R. 5680 where millions in lawyer, lobbyist and private investigator fees failed.

No doubt some feeble attempts will be made to link the conflict to Ethiopian nationalism just as Mengistu did when Somalia invaded in 1977 and Meles did when Eritrea invaded in 1998. Both sincerly espoused their beliefs in the illegitimacy of Ethiopia until it could become a useful tool to pretend otherwise.

Just as Stalin temporarily invited Mother Russia and the Church into the Soviet space in 1941 when Hitler invaded - watch for calls now from the Gibee to duty for Mother Ethiopia to come out and pictures taken with religious figures. This will also seem like a good moment for all 'Good Ethiopians' to rally to the flag that the PM sincerely described as a rag.

No one will take any of this seriously but it will be just another excuse to shed blood amidst the 70 million in the opposition and to terrify them with another set of excuses. More excuses are needed you see as the careful though transparent propaganda buildup of the first fourteen years of revolutionary democracy came crashing down when Ethiopians and the opposition decided not to play their part in the fake election.

In the same way the Islamist Warlords can now kill people who dance at weddings and watch soccer on TV confident that nationalism will, at least on the surface, bind the will of Somali's to resist them while serving as a fundraising pitch in the radical Islamic world.

Meles Inc. started this war at this time to ensure that it remain in power right now and perhaps for the next few years more - while any general Ethiopian interest in perhaps waiting to be attacked or at least provoked before invading - or even checking to see how the cost will be paid, was decided.

American taxpayers will pay with cash and Ethiopian ones will pay with blood and the last birr squeezed from their bodies if it all goes according to plan. As far as American interests are concerned it should be made clear that the long term and short term interests of Meles Inc. are in INSTABILITY.

That way the top ranks of Meles Inc. can do whatever they want to whomever they want with no consequence and an indefinite place in power. If the Horn of Africa, or Somalia or Ethiopia come tumbling down be assured that those top ranks have golden parachutes to escape to riches in the West that few corporate CEOs ever dreamed of.