Monday, December 4

Dictator for Life ... by Foreign Acclaim

In ancient Rome a temporary dictator could be appointed by the Senate during times of crisis - for a fixed period only. After that, power reverted to the usual suspects in joint rule by patrician / feudal politicians or warlords. That is ... unless the dictator wanted to stay dictator longer.

Rome muddled through the decay of its Republic institutions until Julius Caesar brought the whole thing tumbling down with more ambition than usual and civil war. His adopted son, Octavian emerged from the chaos to became the great Augustus, the Emperor that Julius always wanted to be.

In truth for all Rome's glory then and meaning to our modern world now, the Republic or Empire or what have you was ruled by one or a few men from just the right families. But ... at least Rome gave us the notions of Roman Law and the modern state even if the Senate was representative of only a few who mattered while the whole was built by conquest.

To be fair to history though, every nation today was built by some version of the same process, wasn't it?

It is what happens next that mattered. In the past that next meant centuries while today expectations are different and there is little more to discover about governing. Fukayama may have been wrong about saying that history was over back in 1990 or so but he was right about what worked to make mankind escape the "poor, nasty and brutish" lives that the Hobbesian reality of the past pointed to ... forever, without the saving graces of liberal democracy and capitalism.

Well, it wasn't a total loss for mankind at all, however we look back and scorn Rome's pre-Judeo-Christian morality and world view. At least the idea of representation was important and although that was borrowed from the no more democratic (by our standards) Greeks - it is hard to judge history in the same manner as the present when men, presumably know better.

The legacy of Meles Inc. does not need to await any verdict of history. That legacy is apparent today.

Meles has been the ultimate Machiavellian dictator within the TPLF and a self appointed tyrant of all Tigrayans he could get his hands on since 1974. From 1991 on after the defeat of his fellow despot, Mengistu in the contest to see who was the real communist, Meles became the bloody despot of all Ethiopians he could lay hands on.

The fact that Ethiopia has had 'elections' and has a 'parliament' and even a 'supreme court' is of no import. Even Stalin and Mengistu played the same games to provide a false aura of popular consent and faux legality for their dictatorships. It could be argued (successfully we are sure) that during the period up to 1998 and the Eritrean invasion of Ethiopia, Meles shared each stage of his growing reign with Issias of the EPLF.

That corporate dispute at the cost of tens of thousands of lives brought about the elevation of Meles from a co-tyranny of Ethiopia at best or the Eritrean governorship of Ethiopia at worst, all the way to the brass ring of absolute rule. Meles just knew he had it all figured out after that.

He would grow ever more rich and ever more powerful with only a minimal need to give a tiny feudal aristocracy drawn from every tribe and some hangers on, a fraction of what he kept for himself. Their crimes on his behalf drew them to him out of fear of justice along with the certain knowledge that what Meles had given, he could take away on a whim. They also knew what they had done to others could be done to themselves by Meles whenever they displeased him.

The world at large played along with the game. Much of the international community just like the United Nations that purports to represent it, did not care a bit. Others took him at his word or pretended to anyway out of natural self interest and declared him a leader of an African renaissance. Others saw a thug who at least stayed bought some of the time he was paid to do something.

Payment was a crucial part of the equation. The Meles brand of rule ignored every rule of history whose aims were national freedom and enrichment. Tribal divide and rule, kleptocratic corrupt economics and no ownership rights of property, of course, guaranteed eternal poverty and all concerned knew it.

So a social compact was made with the West to pay protection money to Meles on behalf of Ethiopians that he oppressed and made poorer as long as he was given respect and got the greatest share of billions in aid for Meles Inc.

The West got in return confirmation of their low expectations, the balm of good feeling that came from caring more for Ethiopians than their own government did and someone they could talk to at dinner parties who might be trusted to keep Ethiopia out of the headlines that may lead folks back home to wonder about their own foreign policies.

It hasn't worked out that way. The fake election agreed upon to make nice the transfer of countless new billions of Dollars and Euros between development partners was somehow lost. It was lost by virtue of the brave sincere desire of all Ethiopians for change, their combined loathing of their rulers and their desperate need for chance to take part in the benefits of liberal democracy and capitalism that the rest of the world was enjoying.

Meles then showed his true face to the West (Ethiopians knew it all to well all along) and tore an even bloodier swath through the country. He paused from draining out gallons of blood, sweat and tears from thousands of killed, tens of thousands in prison camps and millions of others living in terror only long enough to talk of 'election commissions', 'parliamentary investigations' and 'free trials'.

The reality of his rule comes out of the mouths of AK-47s and the barrels of cash from his financiers abroad. But ... none of this is news is it?

What is just a little bit new is the lengths to which Meles will play the 'set the Horn of Africa' afire card to stay in the good graces of Washington and Brussels. As representatives of the US and EU peoples threatened to stop the gravy train and demand he treat Ethiopians decently he took full advantage of Somali politics to position himself as the ultimate practitioner of the War on Terror.

Unable to fake democracy convincingly enough to satisfy even the easiest observers who wanted him to be their man - Meles has decided now to become officially appointed dictator in true Roman fashion. Once again, everyone knows what he has always been but in a curious manner he has recently dropped the whole facade.

The first person that Meles sent into Kaliti prison where hundreds of opposition leaders, journalists and human rights campaigners are before a kangaroo court with their lives at stake was US Charge d'Affaires Vicki Huddleston. According to Seminawork back in August of this year Ms. Huddleston was
still engaged in reconciliation [our italics, read popular surrender] efforts. According to close sources, she is hoping that the jailed leaders will initiate talks with the government. Prison sources confirmed that she talked with Birtukan Midekisa last Friday and told her in detail about the problems of Somalia and the need to solve internal differences to do away with the threat of "Islamism in the Ethiopia".

Birtukan replied that she didn't want to see war with Somalia but Kinijit had no control on the situation. The Charge d'affaires was adamant that there is a way out for Ethiopia and they should think about starting a reconciliation process. Sources said that the Charge d'affairs is thinking in terms of the Mandela line where he initiated talks with the government while he was in prison. It was reported that the government has shown a gesture of will to the talks but doesn't want to initiate them.
Get all those bits of nonsense?

Apparently, the Mandela-like thing to do is to approach the government (meaning surrender) while the government is too proud to even openly acknowledge the need for talks not to mention congenitally incapable of negotiating in good faith. This while it imprisoned the other side and threatened their lives as certified genocidal men and women of treason.

Apparently, the Ethiopian thing to do is to surrender to the government because Somali politics and its endless civil war was resulting in a victory for Islamists. Makes perfect sense doesn't it? The right thing to do for those prisoners jailed in a larger prison country was to surrender to the will of Vicki's buddy in the Gibee.

All of this even though those prisoners are only kept alive because of a complex and failed charade of civilized government mandated by donors for their financing of Ethiopia's dictatorship. Shame on you Ms. Huddleston and your superiors at Foggy Bottom - just like you knew then from the prisoner's answers and just like you knew before you set out on that dubious mission - Ethiopians want to choose their own leaders for a change.

Now that the situation in Somalia has deteriorated even more, much to the advantage of Meles and the Islamists - and to the disadvantage of everyone else (could either dream of a better enemy?), has sent a second person into the lion's den of Kaliti with the same message. This week Seminawork reports that Meles sent the respected Ethiopianist Ephrem Isaac to Kaliti with a new variation of the same old proposal.
Ethiopia's dictator Meles Zenawi would release CUD leaders who had been held at Kaliti prison for the last thirteen months if they agreed to quit politics. According to prison sources, Meles sent the message to the prisoners through Professor Ephrem Isaac. The prominent linguist and historian met the prisoners at least twice this week and heard a firm rejection from some of the top leaders.
Again the issue is that Ethiopia is in a crisis and now needs an appointed dictator instead of a self appointed one. This is about as logical as the first prison visit by the diplomat. Meles has arrested hundreds on trumped up charges such as planning actual genocide like that in Rwanda's past. They are charged with treason and murder and terrorism - but if they just agree to surrender to his will all will be forgotten.

No one believes these charges at all but they are the word of Ethiopia's infallible (in some circles) god-king Meles. If the opposition is all that bad then how can they be released or trusted under any circumstances? Doesn't that mean that Meles was lying about them all along and that the only issue was that they dared to legitimately challenge his rule and get in the way of his absolute power and bank transfers?

Of course it does and now Meles has confirmed it.

Adrift from his paymasters in a world where ashattir (lies and deception) have gotten him only so far but no longer seem to work he has assumed that all men are like him and the sychophants he surrounds himself with. Unlike the corporate board and share owners of Meles Inc., some men and women just aren't for sale and apparently Meles just can't understand that some people don't bow down before him out of fear or greed.

Imagine the pressures upon the jailed leaders, their families and their loyal friends given the proven viciousness of the regime. They have rejected every manner of bribery and threats to remain loyal to their cause and their country. Imagine how easy it would be (for so many) to take the easy way out. We are reminded of one of our favorite quotes from Andrei Sakharov who understood that mentality of Meles and his ilk perfectly well when he wrote these words about those destroying his country
Homo Sovieticus is like the prostitute who believes that all women are whores because she is. Soviet man believes that the whole world is divided into parties and that every man is a member of one party or another, and that there is no real honesty. No one stands for the truth. And if anyone says he is above Party and is trying to speak the truth alone, he is lying.
The Islamist warlords have every desire and certainly plan to do every harm possible to Ethiopia once they are done ravaging their own people. But that is not the point.

The progress or regression of politics in Somalia presents no rational, moral or sensible reason for Ethiopians to anoint the principle author of their suffering with a mandate to do his will in Ethiopia or in Somalia. Ethiopia will always be weaker and more vulnerable against any threat with Meles in charge.

Anyway, given the 'constitution' mandated by Meles why should he bother with Somalia at all? According to his precious tribalist world view any part of Ethiopia from the Ogaden to a city neighborhood can become independent at will. According to his own laws isn't it up to the people of any part of Ethiopia that the Islamists claim to have a plebiscite to decide any issues without interference from Addis?

Of course not in reality - no more than the people of the Ogaden want to be subject to the same kind of violent insanity engulfing Somalia. But it does seem that there is no consistent internal logic to anything from Ethiopia's government that outlasts decisions about who to kill or trick on any given day.

Get ready for some more absurd lies - Reuters reports that
Ethiopia's parliament voted on Thursday to let the government take "all necessary" steps to rebuff any invasion by Somalia's Islamists amid reports Ethiopian troops on Somali soil had died in a landmine blast.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi urged lawmakers last week to back his plans to fight the Islamists, who have declared jihad on Ethiopia accusing it of sending troops into Somalia to prop up the chaotic country's fragile interim government
How absurd. To begin with what parliament? The whole thing is a front to simulate the behaviour of civilized government. If Meles wanted 'parliament' to make the national language Swedish or to order Ethiopians to wear their underpants on the outside so the government could check to see they were clean (a la Woody Allen's strongman in Bananas) 'parliament' would do so unanimously.

The bit about some abstaining and others voting against the overwhelming pro-Meles 'majority' is for the benefit of 'journalists' who prefer not to take the effort to report reality and who take the words of dictators at face value. Reuters also reports that
U.N. diplomats say Washington is expected this week to unveil a draft Security Council resolution authorising the peacekeeping mission.

But a chorus of voices from Western and regional diplomats to independent analysts say deployment is likely to trigger war between a shaky, Ethiopian-backed interim government and the powerful Eritrean-backed Islamist movement.
Ignore all the calls for everyone to leave Somalia alone coming out of Washington. If the US actually goes through with trying out a resolution like this it would show a tragic myopia but even announcing the intention to do so is a solid vote for Meles to do on the Horn of Africa whatever he wishes anointed with full American support.

We at ethiopundit are supporters of the War on Terror as we stated on the anniversary of 9/11:
The Fourth World War is here. This time humanity faces determined enemies who want to bend Islam, one of the world's great religions, to their own private will in the service of a new totalitarian evil. The first three wars were fought against the Central Powers from 1914-18, totalitarian Fascism from 1935-45 and totalitarian Communism from 1945-91.

The enemies were first engaged with (often simultaneous) policies based upon wishful thinking and frank appeasement that were nurtured by civilization's own self doubts, denial and fears. Peace only came when enough people had the final bitter realization that like it or not there was a war going on that was worth winning.

That realization came to most in the U.S. three years ago today. Some countries had been fighting the war for years while a few are just noticing it. Many others in the U.S. and elsewhere remain unconvinced or simply assume they will remain untouched.

It is the same war all over the world and it has to be won.
Young American men and women are risking their lives in Afghanistan and Iraq today and millions of Muslims and others are engaged in a bitter struggle with Islamism today because the world tried to build some of its foundations on the imagined stability of dictators and every manner of silly 'third way' instead of the bedrock of simple, good old fashioned liberal democracy and capitalism.

The further American embrace of Meles will only lead to suffering for Ethiopians and will harm the interests of America - but that is a price a future Administration will have to pay - today's myopia will undoubtedly cost American blood in the future from encouraging an inherently destabilizing dictatorship to do what it does best.

Meles is only a partner to his own interests just as much as Iran's dictator or North Korea's.

Meles just happens to depend on the US right now because his rule by necessity makes Ethiopia poor and weak - but remember he is always for sale to the highest bidder with his usual ideological and tribal obsessions taking second place to his business empire and eternal residency in the Gibee. For a big enough check Meles would become an Islamist tomorrow, invite a cloned Mussolini to rule Ethiopia or welcome Martian overlords over Earth.

Crisis in Somalia or no crisis in Somalia, Ethiopia's real crisis is caused by Ethiopia's very own dictator. One is not an excuse for the other. Beyond allowing a fraction of billions in aid to build some things along as Meles Inc. gets the contracts and beyond undeserved respect from the rest of the world it is clear that the rule of Meles has no silver lining for Ethiopia and his historical legacy from every point of view will be horrific.

Ethiopians never chose him and no one else can appoint him dictator by imagined popular or American / European acclaim. We see no redeeming features at all in the past two generations of Ethiopian dictatorship - unless one argues that at least the Meles or Mengistu body count wasn't as bad as Pol Pot's.

Well Meles for one hasn't had to do all that ... yet. Do you really doubt that he would?

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