Sunday, June 29

Meles up, Mugabe down, Ethiopians can't swim, they bound to drizzown

Meles up, Mugabe down, Ethiopians can't swim, they bound to drizzown ... witness the World Bank, President Bush, Meles, Armey and Gephardt stepping out in the hypocrisy game ... no wonder Mugabe is unhappy not to be included ... how fair is it to leave Mugabe out of the global playas club when Meles is a charter member who gets invited to the G-8 and everything? Lyrics with apologies to Snoop Dogg.


The US is very upset about Robert Mugabe's behavior and is about to expand sanctions against Mugabe Inc. for being an "illegitimate" government that just won a "sham election". The Queen has even taken away his knighthood while the world's moralizing voices in the press and power that don't feel the silly tug of 'third world solidarity' are speaking up as well. While Mbeki remains as loyal to Mugabe as Mugabe is to Mengistu, Mandela has spoke up as well. Even Kenya has urged the AU to suspend him.

But ... in a sense it is so dreadfully unfair to Mugabe isn't it? What did Mugabe ever do since he became Africa's designated bad guy about eight years ago that Meles has not been doing for seventeen years now? Let us go through the list shall we:

-Illegitimate government? Check!
-Sham elections? Check!
-Police state with terrible human rights violations? Check!
-A state based on ethnic / tribal / racial divide and rule? Check!
-Mass structural corruption? Check!
-A fount of lies? Check!
-Lethal hostility to labor unions and civil society? Check!

There are only two difference between Meles and Mugabe. The first is that Meles plays up to ferenjis studiously and dutifully and Mugabe does not. This allows Meles to feed at the trough of the aid generated by his enforced famine and poverty but either Mugabe is being watched more carefully or Meles is felt to have earned his graft honestly.

The second is clear from the following statement of fact: if Mugabe suddenly discovered a new front in the War Against Terror next door he would immediately be placed on the protected dictators list just like Meles.

Despite wishes to the contrary this truism is absolutely bipartisan.

Bill Clinton, Madeline Albright and Susan Rice were just as comfortable with Meles in their day as George Bush, Condoleeza Rice and Vicki / Jendayi are with him today. It is hard to see how McCain could be different or Obama different either. Note that Susan Rice is Obama's top adviser on Africa. Either candidate is likely to find Ethiopia a convenient setting for low expectations and presumed tough realpolitik.

This blog is quite determined on the matter of the War Against Terror. Fighting it, however, should not mean that the likes of Meles Zenawi thinks that it is open season on Ethiopians. Senator Feingold {Democrat - Wisconsin) observed
Indeed, one look at the deteriorating situation on the Horn of Africa and it is clear just how essential our relationship with Ethiopia really is.

Unfortunately, the Bush Administration’s approach to strengthening and building bilateral ties with Ethiopia has been short-sighted and narrow.

As in other parts of the world, the Administration’s counter-terrorism agenda dominates the relationship, while poor governance and human rights concerns get a pass.
How about the Senior State Department Official who told Human Rights Watch with stunning honesty that
Ethiopia's human rights record is 'not a factor' in the bilateral relationship.
Congressman Smith (Republican - New Jersey} had this to say
No regime that terrorizes its own citizens can be a reliable ally in the war on terror.
and whatever happened to the President's
All who live in tyranny and hopelessness can know: the United States will not ignore your oppression, or excuse your oppressors. When you stand for your liberty, we will stand with you.
Ethiopia's dictatorship is spending millions of dollars with the lobbying firm DLA Piper to defend its interests and its presumed right to money from American taxpayers. This essay by Dagmawi on HR 2003 describes it all rather well.

Remember this money was stolen in the first place from Ethiopians by Meles Inc. Meles Inc. owns the government, the ruling revolutionary party, every square inch of the land, all but a tiny portion of the private economic sector, dominates the economy with the public sector with a monopoly that dwarfs Mengistu's, that gets all aid contracts and invests its own money abroad.

That flood of money going out exceeds all foreign investment which aside from hurrahs and headlines about land (taken from farmers no one talks about) being seeded with roses for Europe - FDI in Ethiopia is at subterranean levels. Per capita FDI in Somalia exceeds that of Ethiopia.

This whole nasty system is enforced with a structure of planned brutality & corruption made with government institutions, a party apparatus, and businessmen who are interchangeable and indeed all members of the revolutionary feudal aristocracy.

Lobbying itself is not the issue and Armey / Gephardt / DLA Piper are not the issue either. From organizations like the Hellenic Institute and AIPAC onto relative newcomers such as Ethiopian-Americans active in the political process, lobbying by interested communities is fundamental to the way American politics works and is entirely honorable.

However, things are different when a foreign despot such as Meles Zenawi uses money stolen from his own people and siphoned from American foreign aid to hire lobbyists in Washington D.C. to protect himself from the consequences of his mass violence. There we are are not talking about anything remotely honorable but rather something fundamentally un-American and anti-democratic.

This from Ethiopian human rights bill stalls - The Hill
The Ethiopia Democracy and Accountability Act of 2007 passed in the House last October. Human rights groups have joined CUD [Coalition for Unity and Democracy - Ethiopia's Democratic Opposition] officials here in promoting the bill. Even so, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has yet to take the measure up.

“To a large extent, this bill represents a serious attempt by Congress to push back against the administration’s unconscionable silence about Ethiopia’s dismal human rights record,” said Chris Albin-Lackey, African researcher for Human Rights Watch. “It is both welcome and overdue.”

The government of Ethiopia has fought back by retaining DLA Piper for $50,000 a month. Since March 2007, DLA has collected more than $1.3 million from the east African country.

Lobbyists for Ethiopia circulated a memo on Capitol Hill stating that the bill could undermine U.S. national security interests. Former House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R[epublican - Texas) is among the DLA lobbyists working on behalf of Ethiopia.
Add Richard Gephardt (Democrat - Missouri) to the Meles Inc. lobbyists list as well. All are assiduously working on behalf of a dictatorship for money. If there was no war on terror they would have another excuse for why their moneybags client should be left alone.

For all the great good these men did their country in their decades of public service they have found in the private sector an amoral stream of cash in selling their knowledge and connections to the highest bidder - no matter who it is apparently. We supposed this is considered just recompense for all the money they did not make in Congress all of those years.

From Bipartisan Duo of Ex-Congressional Heavyweights Blocking Action Against Ethiopia - Harper's
In 2006, the House International Relations Committee approved the Ethiopia Freedom, Democracy, and Human Rights Advancement Act, which criticized the government for its human rights record, called for it to free jailed opposition leaders and restricted security assistance. But the full House never voted on the bill.

Two sources that follow the issue–one a former Hill staffer and the other a lobbyist on African affairs–tell me that Armey twisted the arm of then-House Speaker Denny Hastert to ensure that it didn’t come up for a vote. “Armey has a lot of influence over there,” the former Hill staffer said. “A lot of people in the GOP leadership owe their positions to him.”

Armey has no pull with the new Democratic leadership so now Gephardt has apparently been called on to block full passage of this year’s version of the bill. Gephardt, incidentally, also lobbies for the government of Turkey (another Piper client to the tune of $100,000 per month) [Meles Inc. is paying $50,000 a month], as was recently detailed in a terrific New Republic piece in which author Michael Crowley wrote about Gephardt’s efforts to stop Congress from declaring as genocide the Turkish massacre of Armenians during the early twentieth century.
The Ambassador of Meles Inc. to the US, Samuel Assefa, admits that Ethiopia is no democracy or even that such a development is desired. You see, dear reader, Ethiopians simply can't be trusted with such a thing because according to Mini-Meles Ethiopian culture is dysfunctional and it would be bad for the US to respect the wishes of Ethiopians:
“The task towards democracy isn’t going to be easy because our culture is lacking. We went from empire to monarchy to Marxism-Leninism,” said Samuel Assefa, Ethiopian ambassador to the United States.

“I was naïve; I really thought we were going to be a mainstream democracy overnight.” But Assefa said the legislation will hurt, not help, Ethiopia’s efforts to promote democracy and could destabilize the region.

“The bill would undermine regional stability by severing vital security cooperation between Ethiopia and the U.S.,” said Assefa. “Its champions are those who are advocates of trying another course besides political avenues for expressing whatever political wrongs they seek. This is a misguided approach.”
Got that? This is the supposed Ambassador of a country saying it is no democracy and that pressing the issue would cause the 'severing' security ties with the US. AS IF! The Ambassador's salary is paid for by US aid as is just about every item in the Ethiopian budget.

Meles Inc. has nowhere to turn to without American help. There is also a frank threat to American interests here that is bound around the idea that Meles is willing to burn down the proverbial Ethiopian house if he is not in charge. He already has to be begged and threatened to treat Ethiopians like human beings.

Note the subtle lie that those who ask for Ethiopian democracy are "seeking another course besides political avenues". This is supposed to mean that the democratic opposition is violent. Actually, Meles Inc. holds a monopoly on violence in Ethiopia and uses it freely in political, economic and all other avenues.

This is all code for insisting on all playing by despotic rules which demand absolute submission of the kind Samuel made so deeply and sincerely in finding Meles as the savior almost two decades ago.

That submission and a keen willingness to lie to ferenjis in the very best English while giving pseudo-intelelctual cover to an oppressive regime and being a designated overseer over native Ethiopians at the University - all got him junior league revolutionary feudal aristocrat status ... and he will say anything to keep it.

Samuel Assefa himself is absolutely representative of what is lacking in Ethiopia for normal political and economic development that humans on every continent enjoy every day. His willingness to sell himself to a thug for a title and crony status is interpreted by him as emblematic of what is wrong with all Ethiopians.

If anyone believed that the government had actually won a single fake election what are the chances that Ethiopian culture would be blamed for Melesian rule? None at all. If anyone - anyone at all even pretended to believe a single word of election nonsense the fitness of Ethiopians for democracy would be shouted from the rooftops.

No Sammy baby, it is not Ethiopians and Ethiopian culture that is wrong - it is you and all the others cadres for sale that are wrong with Ethiopia. You say, dear Sammy, that you were naive when you once allegedly thought Ethiopians had a chance at what other humans routinely enjoy. Well your faux wisdom today doesn't even deserve to be called ignorance.

Your pursuit of Meles's interests and your identification in the crumbs that fall from his table tower above any interests of Ethiopians - that is clear.

The non-violent record of the Ethiopian democratic opposition is spotless. Samuel's slick words and defense of Ethiopian unsuitability for rule by anyone else but his own master are vile. This is what passes for the representative of 70 million desperate and oppressed Ethiopian people. There is an old story of one of Meles's first delegates to a {then} OAU conference in 1991 making clear his distaste when the roll call associated his presence with Ethiopia. We really believe that story now.

Low expectations of Ethiopians is the bread and butter of Meles's rule. Everyone, at least every government, is willing to play along. It is kind of like giving away vast segments of Ethiopian territory in the dead of the night and when caught apologizing to the Sudanese regime for so long having illegally occupied Sudanese land. Meles actually did that so who can be surprised at what his goons have to say.

It gets worse. How about this bit of now routine absurdity? From
Ethiomedia - DLA Piper's man embarrased at EU hearing
European parliamentary committees of Human rights, Development and ACP-EU representatives attended the hearing [The European Union parliamentary hearing held in Brussels June 26 on the ever worsening political and human rights situation in Ethiopia].

Representatives of the International crisis group and several Ethiopians also attended the hearing. Meles Zenawi's representatives didn't dare to appear and face Dr. Berhanu. However, the Zenawi regime sent two from its multi-million paid lobby firm, DLA Piper to shamefully represent it.

"I am from lobby firm DLA Piper. I have a question to you and Ms Ana Gomes. Why don't you fight the government in Ethiopia, like Professor Mesfin does, than from Diaspora?" Zenawi's lobbyist Asked.

The presence of a DLA Piper lobbyist at such hearing was very strange. "We have never seen you in any of our sessions before," The UK Labor Party spokesperson and Co-President of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP/EU) Joint Parliamentary Assembly, Glenys Kinnock, told the lobbyist. Glenys has also backed the recent Human Rights Watch report that criticizes the EU executives for being silent over the crimes against humanity being committed by Meles Zenawi regime.

"In Portugal, we also had the same brutal dictatorial regime as the Meles Zenawi's," the Honorable Anna Gomes responded to the lobbyist. "We fought it both from inside and out side." As a chief of the European observer mission to the 2005 polls in Ethiopia, Ms. Anna said Kinijit leaders had won the elections. "Berhanu would have been in power. But the regime put him in jail." Anna added.

Dr. Berhanu on his part told the lobbyist: "You were doing everything to kill HR 2003. You earn money by defending a corrupt and criminal regime at the expense of the misery of millions of the Ethiopian poor." Berhanu further elaborated the crimes of the regime until the lobbyist made an apology.

"We don't want to fight a regime within the rule of the game created in favour of it. We don't want to fight in a framework of what the regime wants us to be."
Amazing?! DLA Piper actually sends people to a hearing at the EU to defend Meles Inc. The DLAP people actually get in and have the nerve to speak up. Note the words used which deserve repetition :
"I am from lobby firm DLA Piper. I have a question to you and Ms Ana Gomes. Why don't you fight the government in Ethiopia, like Professor Mesfin does, than from Diaspora?"
These words are straight from the cadre play book which can be found at party websites, EPRDF newspapers, ETV news, and the mouths of cadres everywhere.

Imagine these (we imagine) freshly scrubbed ambitious young graduates - the veritable best and brightest of America's very finest schools putting it all out there for a foreign dictator in his very own words and even working in the requisite party line about the diaspora.

It is a wonder that they didn't start spouting on about revolutionary democracy, the essential illegitimacy of Ethiopia, and how Ethiopians culturally don't deserve democracy, the evils of rent seeking by anyone but Meles or how the neo-liberal paradigm of development is dead.

Given enough cash of course they would have. Given enough cash stained with the blood, sweat and tears of an entire nation of human beings DLA Piper would represent anyone as long as no one was looking too closely. When it comes to Ethiopian suffering one must wonder if it is like the veritable tree falling in a forest.

Working within the framework of Ethiopian government is simply not to be distinguished from submitting to the dictatorship of Meles Inc. After all every dictator in history from Mao to Mobutu to Mengistu to Milosevic also had a constitutional order, laws, courts, election boards, etc. etc. etc. Would DLAP have represented them?

Why not?

All those institutions of all those despotisms were equally meaningless and about as meaningful as Meles and his government's interests in the welfare of the nation it rules. Shame on Armey, Gephardt et al. for their part in this ugly business for the sake of a quick buck. Along with Ethiopians one of the main victims of all of this is poor Robert Mugabe.

Mugabe is an S.O.B. for sure who hates the people he rules. But Meles is also without doubt an S.O.B. who hates the people he rules. Never forget the following statement of fact: if Mugabe suddenly discovered a new front in the War Against Terror next door he would immediately be placed on the protected dictators list just like Meles.

Everyone who is anyone is outraged by what Chinese involvement in Africa means to human rights and specifically by China's insistence on vetoing any Security Council resolution against Mugabe. We are outraged by that too - but how about all the fine liberal democracies out there who keep Meles going and don't even consider resolutions for his greater crimes?

Who is outraged about that?

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