Thursday, July 12, 2007

"Abusing the people doesn't make sense"

In a recent must-read article ("Fallout from war on terror hits Ethiopia") by a foreign correspondent of the Chicago Tribune, an article that deals with the repercussions of Ethiopia's interference in neighboring Somalia in the name of the war against terrorism, an Ethiopian government official was quoted as saying:
"We don't see any basic violations of human rights," said Bereket Simon, an adviser to Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi. "Abusing the people doesn't make sense. You abuse people and they look to the subversives. It's counterproductive."
For those who are an uninitiated in Ethiopian politics (or those who are ill-informed) such talk may come across as straight talk and sound refreshing. Unfortunately, the true nature of the people who are currently ruling Ethiopia and the state of human rights in Ethiopia could not have been any further from the truth. The truth is, the human rights record of the current rulers for the last 16 years is diametrically the opposite of the image the above quote is intended to project.

One thing the current rulers have excelled at in the last 16 years has been in the PR game. Their talk has always been designed to hoodwink the international audience about the reality in Ethiopia and give an image of a political leadership that is cool-headed and rational. The international audience pretty much had bought into their propaganda up until two years ago. Fortunately for Ethiopia, that game is over.

This Bereket fellow and his master, the prime terrorist Meles Zenawi, can try all they want to say the right things while doing the exact opposite. But no matter how skilled they may be in the PR game, one thing they can't control for sure is the reality on the ground. The reality in Ethiopia, including the Ogaden, is human rights abuses that rival the record of the Dergue regime, the regime Meles and his terrorist friends replaced.


Anonymous said...

Sir, is it not really embarassing to be excelled by these semi-illiterate thugs in the PR front? It was supposed to be the one area where we, the victims, should have excelled. It is frustrating indeed!


Anonymous said...

Mercenary Democracy and the Politics of Deception in Ethiopia

Let us review events of the past three months.

And then there were three visitors.
a. Foreign Minister Seyoum Mesfin visits Washington to promote the idea that human rights violations in Ethiopia isn’t as bad as Ethiopian-Americans portray it; that there are regional security issues that are occupying Ethiopia at the moment, etc. Seyoum is well aware that any time you raise regional security US government listens. It just shows the Ethiopian government has better and also expensive lobbyist instructing it. The current attempt to delay HR 2003 will follow similar approach.
b. PM Meles pays a surprise visit to Somalia; Gedi later flies to Washington for a conference where he tries unsuccessfully to list achievements.
c. Party Boss Sebhat Nega goes to Washington to confer with Tigrayan intellectuals. What did they confer? [It is interesting some vocal individuals are now unusually quiet.]
Three statements and denials
d. Shortly after, Sebhat makes his “gold and dust” speech in defense of Eritrea against Ethiopia. (outcry follows)
e. Badme goes over to the Eritrean side. (more outcry)
f. Meles admits “political miscalculation” in intervening in Somalia; Jendayi Fraser talks to BBC along the same line.

Seyoum takes an unusual position of denying Gettleman’s coverage of ONLF activities in the Ogaden in

Bereket goes on VOA to “clarify” Meles’s “apology” to parliament on his (mis) adventure in Somalia. Ambassador Samuel writes to The Washington Post that McCrummen misquoted Meles. Interestingly, the Ambassador tries to correct the “misquote” by slipping in a misstatement that “the extremist forces made a military miscalculation in assuming that Ethiopia's withdrawal of roughly two-thirds of its troops would not leave a credible deterrent force.” The fact is that two-thirds of Ethiopian troops did not leave Somalia. Another interesting thing is that included Ambassador Samuel’s photo with President Bush, his academic credentials and repeated the title “US ‘Surprised’ by Ethiopia move for death penalty in coup plot” [italics mine]. I don’t see the relevance of the three items other than a promotional effort by

Meles, the Opposition, and Siye
g. I think the fake “death penalty” will be commuted. It is intended to create an outcry, build suspense and divide the Opposition. Commuting the sentence will portray Meles as a humanitarian and a statesman. He needs to register this with the international community.
h. Sean McCormack’s (State Department) “call on the Ethiopian government and High Court to take action in making a final sentencing determination which is consistent with the greater objectives of bolstering the rule of law and promoting much-needed reconciliation” is a hint that it will be dutifully followed by Meles & Co. Following their release, Opposition leaders will once again be asked to take their seats in parliament. It is all a big lie!
i. The release of Siye is being hailed as significant. Ethio-Zagol has uncharacteristically titled a recent post “Siye, The Healer.” Unsurprisingly, most of the congratulatory statements have come from Tigrayans. Whatever good qualities one may see in Siye the fact remains that he is part and parcel of the ruling minority. Why Siye is released now and not, say, Abera Yemane-Ab could be that the former is needed to cement the cracking spots within the TPLF structure.

Earlier in the same week, reported that a new party by former TPLF members is in the offing [sic] “with a platform of sustaining the supposedly lacking real democracy to Ethiopia and protecting the sovereignty of the country. Recovering the Port of Asseb also lies at the top of its agenda.” The dilemma in Ethiopian politics over the past 17 years has been the dominance of a TPLF-Plus government. Are we being cajoled to accept a warmed up version of the old stuff—only this time we are promised the carrot of ‘democracy, protection of our sovereignty, and Asseb?’ How absurd can one get?!

It is reasonable to assume that this could be a preparation for war against Eritrea. Sebhat’s “gold and dust” speech and Badme handover are all part of a psychological mobilization for war. There has not been enough anger in Ethiopia lately to sustain a war; the Somalia campaign has shown that to be the case.

We may soon be hearing from Paul Henze. You may have observed in the past that every time the minority government is about to go to war, Paul Henze reported on his recent travels in Ethiopia and the improvements he witnessed contrary to vile spewed by Dergists in the Washington, D.C. area.

The recent favorable coverage of ONLF activities in the Ogaden region by New York Times has created a PR disaster for the ruling minority government. Since Eritrea is thought to be behind the incursions, it may well necessitate an Eritrean campaign. The time is ripe for such a campaign in that the Eritrean opposition within and outside of Eritrea is building momentum. Moreover, the ruling party in Eritrea is consistently violating international standards consequently turning itself into a pariah state.

A deal may have been reached with Eritrean opposition to return Asseb to Ethiopia for the help received to realize their political objective. The danger now is if the two sides sign additional agreement to form a confederation. That is what the US would advise. It certainly has the appearance of strategic economic and security benefits. However, it will be a great disadvantage to Ethiopian interests in the short term. A confederation or any such idea must wait at least a decade, if not two. Both nations must first put their houses in order, educate their publics (without foreign interference) and then, may be, start public debates to determine feasibility of the project.

Also observe the bribe paid to Sudan in the form of an estimated 17,000 hectares of land. This may well be an incentive that Sudan not lend support to Eritrea in the event of launching a war.

Three Lies: time will show more
j. Eritrea and Ethiopian are one and the same. Ironically, Eritreans don’t believe that. If they did, it would only be for some short-term gains—similar to the pre-2000 war conditions when they enjoyed political and economic access denied to many Ethiopians. In fact, they even exported coffee! Do we want those days back?
k. Eritreans rule Ethiopia. Really?! This is part of a psychological warfare and one designed to deflect blame from the ruling minority. The fact is that Eritreans can’t even rule Eritrea, much less Ethiopia. Blaming it on Eritrea helps garner support from the rest of the country. If Meles and Sebhat have been known to be Eritreans working for Eritrean interests, how come so-called dissenters collaborated with them for over a decade? Here is the thing: these are a tight-knit group (by ethnicity, locality, family, loyalty) to allow outside inspection. The one option left to us in this situation is to see them as they are: a group exercised in the politics of deception.
l. Tigray will secede. We keep getting this ultimatum whenever conditions are on the verge of collapsing.


Our hope is that Opposition leaders will be released soon and that they will stand united and not be had by the malicious design of the ruling minority and their handlers.

Secondly, we ask why Meles will allow formation of a new party that enlists Siye in its ranks. In other words, Meles and his wife may lose their “home base” to contenders. That, at best, is improbable. The fact that Lidetu & Co. see the formation of a new party a positive development should alert us there is more to it than meets the eye.

Thirdly, “Siye, The Healer” is indeed an interesting proposition. Just recently, we heard Sebhat state unequivocally that “gold and dust” don’t mix—meaning there will not be any resolution between his group and the Opposition outside of total acceptance of admission of guilt/apology. We also saw attempted mediation was a failure; though in the process we were able to see the participants true color. Meles needs the apology in writing because he sees trouble ahead for himself (Charles Taylor, crimes against humanity, money-laundering, etc.) in the event that he steps aside after his term expires.

The question now becomes, How will the Opposition respond to all this? The gravity of the situation is that donor democracies are not serious about democracy or human rights.

enset said...

Hello Mehari,

I agree that those in the opposition who are the targets of the human right abuses by the Meles regime should have excelled in the PR arena, but not because the opposition camp is more literate than the EPRDF thugs. We should have excelled at it because the crimes and the state terrorism that is committed by the incumbent regime demands that we should have!

Sadly, that has not been the case in the last 16 years. The fact that the opposition has always been at loggerheads with one another as much as they are against the EPRDF is one major factor for the ineffectiveness of the opposition groups' PR efforts. But the EPRDF PR machine also deserves credit for what it has accomplished, albeit it has been mostly for nefarious purposes as the quote above amply illustrates.