Sunday, June 15

Country for Sale

... the prime auctioneer at work ... after all it is his country ... he owns every piece of it ...
"What did the last Neanderthal say to the first Cro-Magnon?"
From the Amazing X-Men ca. 1969
"Buy land AJ, cause God ain't making any more of it"
Tony Soprano to his son

After the Battle of Adwa Italian prisoners of war were sent back to Italy by Emperor Menelik. Before they left he ordered that all of the Italians have their feet washed to make sure they did not leave with even dust from Ethiopian land on them.

Emperor Yohannes spent his life defending Ethiopia from invasion from all quarters and died fighting a Mahdist invasion from the Sudan. For literally thousands of years Ethiopians of every ethnicity and religion have defended Ethiopian independence and sovereignty at great cost.

Perhaps all of history is a bit too much to deal with for the purposes of this post so let us stick with the era of world history after World War II. Many wars have been fought and so much ink spilled over the subjects of sovereignty and national self-determination in that time.

Since the war to our count there have been numerous instances where countries have taken over others in whole or in part - or tried to do so. China and Tibet are examples of this as are Britain, Argentina, and the Falklands.

There are many cases where countries have had territorial disputes brought to international forums where parties have left for home in a very unhappy state. Eritrea, Yemen, and the Hanish Islands are examples of this as are Indonesia and Timor.

One thing is clear throughout all of these examples. Have you, dear reader, ever heard of a country just giving away its land to anyone? Countries do things when they are forced to and when they lose in battle or in court but they never, ever just up and tear pieces of themselves off.

This is even true at the risk of war and great economic hardship. National sovereignty is respected and cherished in our world in the same way that individual human life should be respected in all societies.

A government that can't protect its country's borders is hardly considered worthy of rule anywhere. A country that can't protect its own borders is not only in trouble for the next news cycle - its very existence becomes a matter of doubt.

All democracies get this. Morocco tried to intimidate Spain into giving up a few coastal islands recently and the Spanish very politely sent in their Marines. What do you think would happen if China tried to take the tiniest Pacific atoll from Japan tomorrow?

Even dictators get this - from the point where national existence intersects with their own interests and mission. Neither Stalin nor Mengistu would have voluntarily given up an inch of Soviet or Ethiopian territory regardless of the lessons from the craven deal Lenin made with the Kaiser's Germany.

How is it that Ethiopia has become ruled by a regime that not only does not get this point but is decidedly hostile at every turn to Ethiopian interests?

A decade ago Eritrea invaded and after a bitter bloody expensive war it did not start - Ethiopia won. The Ethiopian regime then submitted the national fate and the land that was the very reason for the war to a foreign arbitration that the victor lost. Can you imagine any other government ever doing such a thing after its own country had been the victim and after it had won?

Since then the Ethiopian government has made its own commitment to the Eritrean cause its priority in profound terms of affection and commitment that have never been heard from it for Ethiopia itself. This is true regardless of the state of relations with the Eritrean government.

Back when Meles was leading the TPLF from the salons of Khartoum and London the surest way for one of hundreds of his subordinates to die was not to face Mengistu's army but to speak ill of the EPLF. During the most recent war, the TPLF itself saw purges at the top for the crimes of considering Ethiopian interests against long term Eritrean ones.

When the war began, Meles responded to foreign criticism of the war's consumption of scarce resources ('two bald men fighting over a comb') by saying that a country "did not have to wait for full tummy's before defending its sovereignty". Very true and understandable to every admirer of any country throughout time yes, but coming from Meles, a rather disingenuous sound bite.

Our thesis is that Meles simply doesn't give a damn. His only constituency is himself, a few of his revolutionary aristocracy who mind keep their place while doing his dirty work, and Western donors who pay for it all.

Several years ago there were reports that Ethiopia was about to give up land to the Sudan. The Ethiopian government denied this vehemently and most figured that even Meles wouldn't do this.

After all Mengistu could have been in power indefinitely if he had just made a deal with the EPLF in the 80's for Eritrean independence. Meles could not be expected to sink to depths that Mengistu would not.

Well ... in the past few months a few things have happened. Claims were made that Ethiopia had actually ceded territory to Sudan. The Ethiopian government denied it. The Sudanese regime's response was "yeah sure".

The Ethiopian government denied reports of Ethiopian villagers being chased off of their land by Sudanese soldiers and of villages being burned and livestock taken. The Sudanese just kept quiet and kept rolling their armed forces into Ethiopia.

Finally groups of Ethiopian-Americans and Israelis who ran commercial farms in border regions along with percolating newsmen reported what they had seen. So the Ethiopian government came clean and admitted that a large territory from south of Humera to Illubabor had been given to the Sudan.

Remember, dear reader, that when Ethiopians suffer and die it is like a tree falling in the forest - no one hears or at the very most everyone easily ignores the sounds. When moral and vocal ferenjis or those whom ferenjis listen to say something it matters. The only time this is not the case is when Ethiopian suffering translates into cold hard cash such as reported famines caused by the government itself.

One of the most ridiculous defenses of the policy came from one of the all too typical public relations cadre who said that Ethiopian farmers had been consulted on the land give away to Sudan and that the farmers had all agreed to it. This is like the government survey of Ethiopian farmers reported years ago where all thought that the current land policy where the government owned all land was simply brilliant.

Both surveys / consultations are like possible polls of slaves in the American South conducted by overseers that would have surely found unanimous black support for slavery. This is the kind of thing that dictators say because they know it gives immoral bureaucrats and reporters from around the world something to chew on and to pretend to believe.

The governments corps of cadres believe what they are told less than anyone else but having made their beds they choose to stay in them as long as someone else is cold and getting hurt. The government knows that no one believes it but so low are expectations of decent government in Ethiopia from anyone that it all passes by seemingly unnoticed.

What other country on earth could have imaginably given away its own land with such a poor bodyguard of lies to go with it and then thuggish shrugs of boredom to deal with the truth?

What is most remarkable about this is that no one is a bit surprised at what Meles would do.

What pressing need was there to make a deal ceding territory to the Sudan? Decades ago Ethiopia agreed on border treaties with Sudan that kept all of the borders and Ethiopian sovereignty intact. Mengistu did not follow up to sign a treaty but, however busy he was killing Ethiopians, he was not about to go back and give up large areas of national territory.

When Meles came in his perspective was different. In essence his problem with Mengistu was that he thought he was the real communist and Mengistu an illegitimate pretender. However, his essential hostility to Ethiopia's existence was greater than Mengistu's.

Perhaps the argument that Sudan's borders were colonial determined resonated with Meles because he views Ethiopia as just an example of black colonialism. Certainly that is his position when he does not need to rally Ethiopians to fight and die for him.

The Ethiopian constitution defines the country as a mistakenly associated collection of tribes who can secede at any moment in groups as large as entire ethnicities to ones as small as a group of kids who play soccer together in a school yard. The only thing holding them together is the current government and revolutionary democracy. In practice like all other aspects of Ethiopian government this is, of course, just another lie.

Ethiopia's government is one of the greatest violators of human rights on the planet. It is one of the most corrupt governments on earth. It has one of the least attractive settings for foreign investment anywhere. The public sector dominates more of the economy than almost any country besides North Korea. What remains and what is termed a private sector is owned by the same people who run the government and their most obedient servants.

This whole incestuous mess is regulated, taxed, judged, chosen, managed, and run by and for the same small revolutionary aristocracy who don't even bother to change hats between jobs. A few fellow travelers and hangers on jockey and connive for crony status and the crumbs that fall from the tables of the tribal nobility. They are fine with it all as long as someone else is getting screwed over and know that they have blood on their hands too.

Since there is no private property in Ethiopia that means the government owns all of the land and since the country is a dictatorship that means Meles owns all of the land.

It is hard to imagine what Sudan could have done to Ethiopian interests if Ethiopia had refused to give this land away. A Sudanese invasion was not possible and as far as subversion from Sudanese territory is concerned, well ... that has been a constant for Ethiopian governments for countless centuries now.

The only time that was ever different was when Ethiopia's liberation from Italy was supported from British Sudan in the 40's. The issue has never been the Sudanese but that Sudanese governments, like Meles, have always defined their interests in opposition to Ethiopia's interests.

Was Meles scared Sudan would take him to the World Court? Unlikely. They hadn't do so in all those years and given his refusal to obey a ruling for Eritrea a few years ago the idea that anyone would force him to give land to the likes of Sudan was really not a possibility.

Was he worried about Sudanese support for a hostile Eritrea supporting nasty jihadists in Somalia? No - as we have said worrying about Sudanese policy on either matter is for Ethiopian policy makers like worrying about whether or not the sun will come up tomorrow.

It simply does not make sense to a rational observer. That is unless the observer remains rational but realizes that the players are not playing by normal rules of humanity. Meles has made thousands of decisions as senior cadre of the TPLF that hurt Tigrayans in particular and thousands more decisions as dictator that hurt Ethiopians in general.

Is it really such a stretch to see that to him this is just another selfish decision? Meles has a parliament, supreme court, ministries, elections, etc. and we all know they are covers for his selfish and bloody business of eternal glory, rule, and enrichment.

So just because land is sacred to billions of other human beings from Guatemala to Vietnam - it does not naturally follow that it is so to Meles. Land matters to him where it means personal power and where it attracts or squeezes out cash.

The only possible motive that would make Meles give up Ethiopian land is his personal interests.

We don't have bank account numbers or transfer records at hand but we believe without a doubt that a few drops from the billions of oil dollars flooding Sudan have found there way to the personal accounts of Meles and those he trusts implicitly, be they his beards, anonymous holding company directors, shell busines directors, and investment managers worldwide.

There is simply no other explanation for why a country in the early 21st century would with no pressure on it whatsoever just give away part of itself. Remember no one said anything about a deal being made or Ethiopia getting anything in exchange.

If there are secret terms or a hidden codicil to this agreement it can only be that Ethiopia has promised to give away more land in the future. A few million dollars are Euros may seem like a cheap price to pay so Meles probably held out for more than that.

What is the money, even if it is hundreds of millions, to the Sudanese regime?

Cash literally pours out of the ground in the billions there in a veritable flood of wealth they have to share with no one. The Sudanese regime is like that of Meles not fond of the people it rules but they they would never question the essential legitimacy of Sudan to exist or consider giving any of it away.

Having found a fellow thug in Addis Ababa who hates his own people and country even more than themselves - they made a great deal while they could before Ethiopian government ever managed to regain a semblance of interest in the Ethiopian national interest.

Whatever happens in Sudan's future - Sudan has more land now and the precedent has been established for taking land from Ethiopians. In this most elementary function, Sudan's government has even in its brutal rule given evidence of appreciation of an instinctive mission of all governments not to lose land.

Whatever happens now in Ethiopia's future - Ethiopia has less land and yet another precedent has been established for dismantling Ethiopia and giving away land. In this most elementary function, Meles Inc. has given evidence of appreciation of its own instinctive mission to sacrifice Ethiopian interest in favor of personal and corporate ones.

The most amazing thing about this is that no one is surprised a bit. Basically, there are no depths that Meles could sink to that would surprise any one out here.

We have said in the past that Mengistu's time was Zemene Awre - the Era of the Beast. Meles's time is Zemene Ashattir - the Era of the Trickster, the Corrupt, the Liars, and the Casual Killers. We believe that is true now more than ever.

One perhaps comforting way of looking at this is to just not bother. After all who are we to quibble about Meles disposing of his own property in any way he likes?

<< Home