Monday, February 25

Games Cadres Play

The utterly fascinating articles below appeared in several forums in January 2008. Both seem just too silly to be true. Mind, we don't doubt that Meles Inc. is running the Somali government like a branch of Mega or one of his pet tribal parties.

It is also clear that Ethiopia's dictator has a managerial style (with non-ferenjis of course) that relies more on Pablo Escobar than Dale Carnegie. However, these articles do seem a bit much ... but given the players though, one never knows does one?

Here one goes:
Ethiopia's top military commanders serving in Somalia have dispatched a letter to the country's interim president, Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed, expressing their dissatisfaction with the policies of new Prime Minister [and the way that he] is running his new government


The letter was also sent to Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, President Yusuf's main backer. The generals' central argument in the letter is that the Prime Minister makes decisions without consulting Ethiopian army commanders based in the capital Mogadishu

Ethiopian Prime Minister Zenawi is largely believed to have personally hand-picked former Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi, who resigned last October under Ethiopian pressure following a serious rift with President Yusuf.
Please note that this is in a news environment that reports that an Ethiopian general had slapped the Somali President:
The row between President Yusuf Ahmed and Gen. Heard started after the president accused the army general of disobeying the orders given by the Somali government


Irked by the Somali President's remarks, who accused the Ethiopian troops of firing artillery at the Presidential Palace and the government bases, the army general slapped the Somali president on the face.

The angry general then swore that he would kill the president and left the room.
First things first. Do the armed minions of Meles have a level of arrogance and ingrained habits of reliance on brute force that would see them feeling so entitled regarding Somalis? The answer is clearly yes.

They feel more entitled than that regarding Ethiopians on a daily basis. It is hard to imagine Somalis would be treated any differently than Ethiopians. If they and Meles could get away with it they would be slapping down their ferenji 'development partner diplomats' regularly - just like Mafia goons after protection money.

Instead Meles has to settle for threatening to harm Ethiopians and then being begged, bribed, and gently chided to treat his own people with at least a less embarrassing illusion of human decency. His instincts and those of his thugs at every level are, however, quite clear.

The part of all of this news that does not ring true is the very idea that the generals in question would dare to even imagine questioning Meles himself. Like Chairman Mao's wife said in her own defense "Whoever Chairman Mao asked me to bite, I bit."

Meles has played games like this before.

Ferenjis are always being warned not to pressure him to hard on decent government because 'the real radicals' in the upper reaches of his party will take over at any moment. No doubt ferenjis are also cautioned from expecting humane behavior from Meles based on the illusory fear of 'angry generals' too.

These news articles feed into that illusion and how Meles is really Our Man in Africa and The Great Black Hope of Vicki Huddleston's twisted spin.

The stories maybe propaganda or reflect the deepest thoughts from either side depending on how you look at it. Somali nationalism was defined from the beginning by inciting hatred of Ethiopia and the desire to take over all or part of every neighboring country. Melesian government is based also on inciting hatred of Ethiopia and the desire to rule it at the same time.

Notice how America's President made it through his entire African trip recently with no mention of Ethiopia (a visit would have been impossible)? Meles is certainly "an S.O.B. and our S.O.B." but he can be no part of photo ops - the loathsome odor of mendacity and the ripe smell of rotting flesh is a bit too fresh in everyone's nostrils for an American President to get too close to Meles in public.

So - Ethiopia was just ignored while the U.S. attacks the Sudanese government over Darfur, denounces the Burmese government over street massacres, and places sanctions on the leaders of Belarus over general human rights issues. Ethiopians suffer under a regime at least as bad and certainly worse than all these targets of human rights politics here mentioned.

The Ethiopian feudal revolutionary elite is certainly more murderous, oppressive, and corrupt than the regimes in Belarus and Burma. How about Sudan and Darfur?

The war in the Ogaden today includes government forcing educated elements of the region's population to take up arms to fight rebels. That is an attempt to split the population, group punishment, and an attempt to simply weed out the regional educated / intelligentsia for the future when they may cause problems or speak out.

Wells are poisoned, thousands killed and raped, and communities destroyed. Recently Meles, who has displayed a visceral sense of contempt for religion rooted in his primeval Stalinist instincts, referred to Ethiopia as an Orthodox Christian country.

Well most Ethiopians are just that - but previously manipulating and threatening the Ethiopian clergy was his major interest in the subject. Bringing it up now is just part of his age old belief that his rule is based on divide and rule be it tribal, regional, or religious.

Ethiopia's history of religious interaction may not be the stuff of a Disney movie but it has been remarkably peaceful and cooperative compared to the rest of Africa, South Asia, and the Middle East. Religion is now just a new frontier for Meles to extend his systematic destruction of all things Ethiopian for the sake of the next year, month, or even day in power.

This also has nothing to do with fighting Al Quaeda. Meles has simply found the one thing that will get himself paid and 'respected' no matter how badly he treats Ethiopians or Somalis. For the right price and immunity for his crimes against humanity he would be making a video with Bin Laden tomorrow or kissing Kim Jong Il next week.


Anyway, any idea that everyone controlling or leading any armed force in Ethiopia is not entirely a creature and absolutely obedient servant of Meles is simply stupid. The blog entry below is from February 2005 and has a similar theme.


but the constitution says ... oh never mind

This item “National Army Expresses Support To New Peace Proposal” just does not seem right. Ideally, it should not matter where the armed forces of any country stand on any political issue. Realistically, in a non-democratic system, the military may be the guarantors of government rule so military pronouncements on civilian policy are actually even more disturbing. This is crucial for a country like Ethiopia which for 17 years experienced a particularly vicious military junta.

After the Eritrean invasion of 1998, Ethiopia became one of the few victims of aggression to ever gain an expensive victory on the battlefield who willingly submitted to binding arbitration. All members of the panel, including Ethiopia’s appointees, voted for Eritrea so a stalemate resulted. In late 2004, the Ethiopian government announced a Five Point Peace Proposal which either does or doesn‘t accept the arbitration - no one knows for sure.

The Army Chief of Staff makes some statements that raise all manner of questions. Why must the military have “an in-depth discussion” before it supports their government? Are the soldiers going to VOTE on it? How can an army NOT be “at the disposal of a public agenda“? Finally, why must the army strive to serve “the interests of the people AND government of Ethiopia?” Are the people and the government being acknowledged to have separate interests?

The issue here is not the Chief of Staff, but a political system that would place such an able and professional soldier in the uncomfortable position of commenting on the byzantine world of politics. Has the subject of Eritrea stirred such passions that supporters of civilian rule must be comforted? Maybe opponents of current government are being warned that both military and civilian forces are independently arrayed against them.

It is all too confusing and like the Kremlin and Kremlinologists of old, this too requires a dedicated Gibee-ologist to sort out. One clear point is that this whole business is unconstitutional anyway. Article 74 of that document says that the Prime Minister is “the Commander-in-Chief of the national armed forces“. Article 87 adds that “[t]he armed forces ... shall carry out any responsibilities as may be assigned to them [by whom?] under any state of emergency declared in accordance with the Constitution.” and that they should “ obey and respect the Constitution” while “ free of any partisanship to any political organization(s)”.

Not one word is written there about the armed forces making up their own minds unless the bit about who assigns them in an emergency is some kind of a loophole. Civilians all over the world may respect their own country's military (in a free society only if they choose to) but the military has the absolute duty to serve civilian authority. Even rhetoric to the contrary is dangerous.

It seems that the parts of the constitution that deny Ethiopians the right to private property and that divide them by ethnicity are meant to be taken seriously while other parts are disposable. The constitution promises all manner of human rights that aren’t respected. It also promises an absolute right to secession on demand ... but any of the 'nations, nationalities and peoples' who count on that are likely to be unpleasantly surprised.

It is clear that the rule of law is not to be taken seriously by any serious observer. If anyone out there really thinks for a second that the army is not totally and utterly under party control - there's this bridge for sale in Brooklyn you might want to take a look at. We can get you a great price too.

UPDATE: A reader alerted us to this April 5, 2003 Economist article (no link available) on the Ethio-Eritrean conflict and the utility of the myth of armed forces independence as a political factor.
To diplomats from aid-giving countries, [the Ethiopian Prime Minister] argues that his generals will not accept the loss [of Badme - one of the towns given to Eritrea by arbitration]. If Badme goes to Eritrea, his government may fall, he claims, causing chaos, Ethiopia is large and volatile, and its region, the Horn of Africa, has some strategic importance, so foreigners do not dismiss this plea out of hand,
Essentially then, the principal consumers of Ethiopian policy are aid-giving countries - who may at times have the wool pulled over their eyes quite willingly. That is why defeat was snatched from the jaws of victory in accepting arbitration and why the Five Point Peace Plan even exists.

Any single member of the armed forces who could possibly be a threat to the already united political / military center of the ruling party would long ago have 'disappeared' or be in prison. Revolutionary parties don't win wars and stay in power tolerating any internal dissent at all. If an observer can't seperate the party from government, the military definitely can not be separated from the party.

Friday, February 15

Fight The Power

"Our freedom of speech is freedom or death
We got to fight the powers that be
Lemme hear you say
Fight the power"

Chuck D.


There are some things that even Ethiopia's dictatorship is beyond telling sincere lies about any more. For example, on the subject of any semblance of human rights or participatory government, the accent now is on convincing ferenji donors, ferenji reporters, and the Ethiopian diaspora that everyone is better off with the resident dictators than any other options.

The government hates having to convince anybody of anything. After all as has been made explicitly clear, they will "never give up for the sake of 'counting Ethiopian noses' what was taken by force from Mengistu". At this point readers should note the pretense of democracy is only put forth in terms that the writers themselves clearly do not take seriously even as propaganda.

Does it matter though?

As ever the government's principal constituency remains ferenjis who pay the bills and hold their noses and make nice with the resident dictator - hoping all the while that he doesn't embarrass them by letting some new outrage against the lives and dignity of his own people reaching the outside world.

The Ethiopian diaspora has as a rule rather particularly refused to get with the program. Unlike tens of millions in Ethiopia itself, the only folks of Ethiopian ancestry on earth who are free to speak as they wish without their lives being in danger have stubbornly stuck by the idea that Ethiopians everywhere should have the same rights of every other variety of human being.

The newest and oldest variety of spin to deal with these issues is simply supposed to be a mature knowing wise acceptance of reality. The recycled Meles message is
sure, I'm a dictator, yeah I'm corrupt - but you're stuck with me forever. Just deal with it or I will hurt even more countless millions of these Ethiopians you seem so concerned with. So give me what I want and maybe you can get in on things instead of being locked out.
A recent conversation with a cadre (more subtle than most) that one of us had spelled out the terms of this sub-Faustian bargain.

It goes a little something like this:
Meles Inc. will never leave power and never stop squeezing Ethiopians for cash
Opponents of any kind should "work within the system" in the "space provided".
Why antagonize those who have the power to make things better or to make mistakes when there are deals to be made back home and trouble to be avoided.

This logic should have been appreciated by the opposition who chose to react to a stolen election by not joining the Parliament "where legitimate opponents speak out against Meles everyday". They should have seen that the only way forward was to give up on big dreams and accept the reality of the present and future.

Well ... we thank God that so many disagree with this bit of convincing, however, well it may work in some circles.

Ferenjis in large measure have accepted it because it is not their home to begin with and their interests are career or wealth personal ones or national or institutional power or profit ones. The many ferenjis who don't play the game have to do so at considerable inconvenience to themselves compared with the usual game of 'just getting along with the native thug'.

Tens of millions of Ethiopians have no say in this arrangement or bargain or any other one. Their signatures where signed for them in their own blood, sweat, and tears at the point of a gun.

Ethiopians who still defy the dictatorship and those abroad though, still have obligations that can't be traded away so easily. Traded usually with nothing but a promise of returned land or homes, assurances of international bureaucrat gravy train job, or fat business deals scooping up Meles Inc. crumbs as ferenji aid money is cut up.

In all too many cases the pot is sweetened with the sweet promise (threat of course) that they or their people will be left alone or at least suffer not too much more for the political errors of their relatives. The ugly hand of this sort of racketeering stretches its hands forth to North America and Europe as well.

If we even momentarily accept this kind of logic then why doesn't getting along with power and seeking change within a system absolutely resistant to change apply to the following:
-Perhaps Nelson Mandela should have sought to change with apartheid from within and refrained from offending Botha & Co.
-Should the refuseniks have left Brezhnev and his cronies alone and worked on changing the gulag from within?
-Should the abolitionist movement have worked on slavery in a partnership with slave owners whom it was careful not to offend by saying anything bad about the 'peculiar institution'?
-Maybe Ghandi should have made it clear from the jump that eternal colonialism was perfectly acceptable to him as long as he got to talk in front of a few reporters whenever the Colonial Governor scheduled it.
-Civil Rights workers in the U.S. of the 1960's should have offered to keep segregated facilities in good public relations fettle with the courts instead of raising a fuss and making racists even angrier.
-The TPLF should have worked with Mengistu to change scientific socialism to revolutionary democracy from within no matter what horrors he caused because, after all, he was the author of a constitution and the dully accepted legal authority whom all were bound to accept.

Sorry Charlie, but we and countless thousands in the diaspora and countless millions in Ethiopia aren't having any of your Melesian logic. An important corollary that sustains appeals to this logic is the neo-Mussolinian logic that Meles is at least making the economic 'trains run on time'. We will take a look at that later on.