What do American taxpayers have to show for the billions of dollars in aid they poured into Ethiopia? I am afraid, not much!
BY PROF. AL MARIAM *
The dilemma of U.S. policy in Ethiopia is simply this: The TPLF (Tigrean People’s Liberation Front) is driving the country over the cliff into a cataclysmic civil war at breakneck speed. The Ethiopian opposition is fragmented, splintered, ineffective and disorganized.
The country is in a massive state of quiet riot.
The people of Ethiopia are engaged in mass acts of civil disobedience and nonviolent resistance throughout the country. They refuse to pay the TPLF’s outrageous taxes and are resisting expropriation of their land. Every day the people are standing up defiantly and proclaiming to the TPLF, “Enough is enough! We ain’t gonna take it no more.”
The quiet riot is getting louder and louder by the day.
Two days ago, the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa reported that it is “aware of reports that the main road from Addis Ababa to Jijiga has been blocked by security forces between the cities of Babile and Harar due to intense fighting including gunfire. Ethiopian Defense Force troops are arriving in the area, and the road is not passable.”
The Voice of America, Amharic program also reported a few days ago that massive boycotts and strikes against the TPLF are taking place in the Amhara region.
The quiet riot is morphing into a creeping civil war slowly enveloping Ethiopia.
Is Ethiopia doomed to share the fate of Rwanda, as Meles Zenawi, the late thugmaster of the TPLF, once predicted? Could the U.S. play a role to avert a civil war in Ethiopia?
The U.S. has always played a decisive role in Ethiopia.
Over the past eight years, the Obama administration has been the best friend for life of African dictators. The U.S. poured billions of American tax dollars to keep the TPLF afloat despite its horrendous corruption and human rights record. Obama even declared the TPLF is democratically elected after the TPLF claimed one hundred percent control of the “parliament”, and a police state which pretty much every other aspect of the society.
In 1997, President Bill Clinton imposed a comprehensive trade embargo against Sudan and blocked the assets of the Sudanese government for the genocide in Darfur and sponsorship of terrorism.
On January 13, 2017, a week before the end of his term, signed an executive order removing Clinton’s trade embargo on the government of Omar al-Bashir, a dictatorship that has been in power since seizing power in a military coup in 1989. Bashir is today an indicted fugitive from justice at the International Criminal Court and listed on the Red Notice of Interpol for directing genocide in Darfur and other places in the Sudan.
Barack Obama never met a dictator or thugtator he did not love. Trump has manifested very little interest in Africa.
For his apparent lack of expressed interest, he has been criticized for ignoring (and being ignorant) and neglecting Africa.
Indeed, the positions of National Security Council Africa director, assistant secretary and principal deputy assistant secretary for African affairs at the State Department remain vacant.
Trump has only spoken to the presidents of Nigeria and South Africa. Trump completely ignored Obama’s darlings and the biggest mooches of American tax dollars in Ethiopia. This past May, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis visited the Middle East and Africa to “reaffirm key U.S. military alliances” and engage with strategic partners.” Mattis only visited the tiny nation of Djibouti in the Horn of Africa where the U.S. maintains its largest military base.
Ethiopia was conspicuously absent from the “strategic partner” lineup. Does that signal a basic shift in U.S. policy in Ethiopia?
Trump’s critics argue that he simply fails “to realize the importance of Africa to U.S. national security interests, and America’s indispensable role in continuing to shape the democratic evolution of the continent.” They say he is callously turning his back on “more than 20 million people facing starvation and famine” in Africa. Their preferred solution is for Trump to appoint “moderate and experienced Africa experts” and old hands who perambulate through the revolving door of government, think tanks and consultancies and continue with business as usual.
I am not concerned about, and give little credit to, allegations that Trump is “ignoring” Africa. I believe Obama has done much greater damage to the people of Africa by pouring billions of American tax dollars to support their oppressive dictators.
Perhaps Trump is “ignoring” Africa because he believes Africa’s dictators are not worth a damn. Not a dime of American tax dollars should be used to support their corruption and lavish life styles.
Perhaps Trump thinks Africa under the rule of thugtators and dictators is a rabbit hole for American tax dollars with no accountability. Maybe he does not want to throw good money after bad. I do not know.
But after examining Trump’s transitions team’s questions on Africa, all I can say is that they asked the same exact questions I have been asking for the past eleven years. What more can I say!?
Where Trump’s critics see danger in “ignoring” Africa, I see great opportunity to engage and influence the Trump administration in its emerging Africa policy.
Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it…
There are tens of thousands of Ethiopian American taxpayers who shelled out their hard-earned money and sacrificed their time and energy to get Barack Obama elected.
They put all their eggs in Obama’s basket, and Obama crushed them all in eight years. Obama betrayed the vast majority of his Ethiopian-American supporters when he got in bed with the TPLF thugs. To use an Ethiopian metaphor, “In return for the gold Ethiopian Americans gave Obama, he returned to them pebbles.”
I doubt there is any Ethiopian American who has felt Obama’s cruel betrayal more deeply than myself. I made so many excuses to defend him in his policy in Ethiopia against those who said he was no friend of Ethiopia. They told me Obama was a friend of Africa’s thugtators and dictators. His best friends were the TPLF thugs. I dismissed their views out of hand. I self-assuredly proclaimed, “Obama was a constitutional and civil rights lawyer before he was president. He will do the right thing.”
Now, I know I was wrong and those who pegged Obama as African dictators’ best friend were right. (Mea culpa. My belated apologies to all!)
Obama made a parade of fools of his Ethiopian American supporters, and I must painfully confess that I was at the front of that parade twirling a baton. But I had a cathartic moment when I wrote my September 2014 commentary, “Shame On Me For Being Proud of President Obama!”
Truth be told, shame on Obama for he shamed himself for all eternity when he declared with a straight face that the TPLF which claimed to have won one hundred percent of the seats in its “parliament” was democratically elected.
I have nothing to be ashamed! Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on you. Obama will not fool me the second time wallowing in the dustbin of history! All I have to say to Obama is, “He who laughs last, laughs best!”
It is true that “America has no permanent friends or enemies, only interests.” Thus, the question is, “What are the mutual interests of the U.S. and Ethiopia in their relations?”
For eight years, I have spoken to Obama’s deaf ears about the mutual interests of the two countries. All I got from his administration was, “We are working on it. It takes time.” It took me a while to find out about the subterfuge of Obama’s “quiet diplomacy”.
How silly of me to believe that there could be quiet diplomacy in the face of massacres, colossal thefts of elections and gross violations of human rights. It is like the fox having quiet diplomacy with the chickens cooped up in the hen house.
Anyway, “quiet diplomacy” was Obama’s reward to all of his Ethiopian American supporters who toiled to get him elected. In less than six months, I have been “heard” by the Trump administration.
In my December 2016 commentary, “Glimpses of Trump’s Foreign (Human Rights) Policy in Africa”, I confidently declared that President Trump would do nothing but “watch Africa mired in corruption, human rights violations, bad governance, wars, conflicts and violence with indifference and nonchalance.” I further declared, “I do not expect the Trump Administration to pay attention to my analyses or policy recommendations on Africa” and “if I am proven wrong in the slightest, I ‘shall eat crow’, the ultimate blasphemy for a vegan.”
I am happy to report that I now know where to get vegan crow. I am comparing and contrasting Obama with Trump because I believe there is an opportunity to influence, however modestly or enormously, the Trump administration in the right direction. That is the direction of strict U.S. aid accountability, human rights accountability and democratic accountability.
That is why I am specifically inviting and challenging Ethiopian American intellectuals in this series to engage U.S. policy makers by providing them informed, evidence-based and well-reasoned policy analysis on what the U.S. should and should not do in Ethiopia, and remind them of what the U.S. has done right and wrong in the past.
The less of history is this: Things are not always what they seem to be, and one should never put all of one’s eggs in one basket.
The 800-pound gorilla in the room nobody wants to talk about
The “dilemma” for U.S. policy in Ethiopia revolves around difficult choices the U.S. will have to make given that country’s political trajectory towards civil war. CIVIL WAR! The prospect of civil war in Ethiopia is something few would dare to talk about in public. Privately, that is what most Ethiopians murmur about in one form or another.
I talked about it in my August 2016 commentary, “The Volcano, the Beast and the Tiger”. Things have gotten far worse in August 2017.
In October 2016, the TPLF declared a state of emergency and jailed tens of thousands of innocent citizens fearing the breakout of civil war.
The TPLF puppet prime minister Desalegn invoked the constitution (Art. 93(1)(a)) to declare “state of emergency” fearing a “breakdown of law and order which endangers the Constitutional order and which cannot be controlled by the regular law enforcement agencies and personnel”.
In my May 2017 commentary, “The Good Kops/Bad Kops T-TPLF Con Game (Over)”, I pointed out the irrefutable fact that the TPLF today barely clings to dear political life sitting on a powder keg and holding by a thread it calls a “state of emergency” decree. Remove the “state of emergency” lid on the people’s anger, frustration and resentment against TPLF rule and boom goes the powder keg.
Last week, the TPLF declared it had lifted the “state of emergency”. BFD!
Of course, the TPLF did not have to lift diddly. The people did it on their own. They refused to pay taxes in the form of daylight robbery. They refused to give up their land. In short, they told the TPLF to go to hell, hell, hell!
Just a minor clarification. The TPLF’s “state of emergency” was, in fact, martial law. The TPLF called it “command post law.” The TPLF thought it could cleverly disguise its martial law by using a kinder, gentler and dumber phrase like “command post”. But martial law by any other name is still martial law. The “command post” was empowered to massacre, jail and terrorize the civilian population at will.
It did not work. The people rose up in massive disobedience two weeks ago and ended the “state of emergency” by themselves. That happened when the TPLF immediately backed down after the anti-tax uprising. The TPLF now claims it had ended the “state of emergency”. Ha!
The TPLF could no longer massacre and jail hundreds of thousands to secure compliance with its dictatorial orders. The TPLF knew all too well that its “state of emergency” could keep a lid on the powder keg for only a very short time.
The pressure in the powder keg is building up by the second, minute and hour. There is no safety valve to release the pressure, only increasing compression and oppression. The TPLF house of cards is coming apart, brick-by-brick and nail-by-nail.
The TPLF knows for certain that when the powder keg goes off, only two questions will remain unanswered: Whether it will go off with a bang or a whimper, and whether it will happen in daylight or come like a thief in the night.
Let the record show…
Let the record show that I am not the first person to talk about the possibility of the powder keg going off with the TPLF perched on top.
Let the record show that the chief prophet of gloom and doom of civil war in Ethiopia was none other than Meles Zenawi, the late TPLF thugmaster.
Let the record show that Meles’ minions and disciples have been preaching about the coming ethnic Armageddon if they were no longer in power for over two decades.
Let the record show that on May 6, 2005, nine days before the election, Meles warned that a victory for the opposition in May 15 elections could lead to Rwanda-style bloodshed and accused the opposition of conspiring to foment ethnic hatred.” Meles pleaded:
“I call on the people of Ethiopia to punish opposition parties who are promoting an ideology of hatred and divisiveness by denying them their votes at election on May 15… Their policies are geared toward creating hatred and rifts between ethnic groups similar to the policies of the Interahamwe when Hutu militia massacred Tutsis in Rwanda. It is a dangerous policy that leads the nation to violence and bloodshed.” (Emphasis added.)
Meles’ was crystal clear about his message: 1) If he and his gang are removed from power there will be civil war. 2) If the opposition takes power, they will conduct genocide on a scale similar to Rwanda’s.
The only thing that was not clear in Meles’ statement was the identity of the genociders and the victims of the genocide.
Meles must have been crazy as a loon or crazy like a fox when he said that. Maybe he was high on khat, but he predicted a Rwanda-style Interahamwe in Ethiopia.
Let the record show that was not the first time Meles warned of the specter of civil war in Ethiopia if he and his gang are no longer in charge.
Let the record show that Meles has been preaching the coming ethnic Armageddon since the late 1990s to justify the necessity for him and his gang to remain at the helm of power. Meles would pull out the “Yugoslav boogeyman” to scare the Ethiopian people. Meles would rant about Ethiopia going the way of Yugoslavia but for his leadership and his TPLF gang. The former Yugoslavia is today seven nations, Meles used to harangue.
Let the record show that Meles repeated the same eschatological warning in a videotaped interview in 2009.
Balkanization was Meles’ and the TPLF’s dream for Ethiopia. It is still their dream today.
Over the past 26 years, Meles and his TPLF gang have toiled day and night to carve up, chop up and put on fire sale Ethiopia to facilitate and prolong their rule; and when it’s time for them to go, to make sure Ethiopia goes up in smoke. It is like the wish of the proverbial Ethiopian donkey: “After I die, I could not care less if the grass grows.” In other words, apres TPLF, le deluge. (After the TPLF, the flood in Ethiopia.)
The former Yugoslavia splintered into 7 states after their civil war. The TPLF did not need a civil war to break up Ethiopia into nine apartheid-style Bantustans called kilils to make it easier for them to divide and rule. Indeed, they have achieved their dream of balkanizing Ethiopia with a stroke of the pen in their constitution.
Today, the TPLF gangsters are trying to convince Ethiopians and the world that without their steady hands at the helm, Ethiopia will go the way of Yugoslavia. What a fantastic con job!
Everyone who has examined the evidence I have presented in the past to prove the TPLF is a reincarnation of the minority apartheid regime in Ethiopia knows that its kililistans are patterned after the Bantustans of apartheid South Africa.
Recently, David Steinman, the American economist and expert in civil resistance, gave an interview in which he said,
“In South Africa, apartheid was used to justify the exploitation of the majority by minority whites. I don’t think it is a coincidence that you see in Ethiopia the exact same dynamic. You have a small ethnic minority that is pushing on other people this ethnic tribalism.”
South African apartheid leaders used to justify their minority white rule by claiming that if they were removed from power South Africa will disintegrate in “a two-phase process of revolution which has as its objective the establishment of a Communist state” and accelerate the spread of communism throughout Africa.
The TPLF is making essentially the same argument. Without them in power, Ethiopia will disintegrate into a 9-way ethnic implosion drawing the entire Horn of Africa. They must, under any and all circumstances, remain in power.
The irony of history is that the TPLF organized itself and waged an armed “liberation” war to create the “Republic of Tigrai” in a “two-step process: 1) re-demarcating Tigray’s borders to expand the region’s borders within Ethiopia, and 2) acquiring coastal lands within Eritrea and seceding as an independent nation.”
The TPLF did not wage a liberation struggle to save Ethiopia from civil war or territorial disintegration. They waged a civil war to disintegrate Tigray from the rest of Ethiopia. Now, they claim to be defenders of Ethiopian unity through ethnic federalism, an oxymoron.
What the TPLF is saying today is similar to a ludicrous statement made by An American military official in Vietnam in 1968. “It became necessary to destroy the town to save it.”
The TPLF says it is necessary to destroy Ethiopia by breaking it up into apartheid-style kililistans (by dividing the people by ethnicity, religion, region, language and class) to save it. The destroyers of Ethiopia are the only saviors of Ethiopia!
The second irony of history is that the TPLF seized power hell-bent to eliminate “Amhara domination”. They made that declaration clear in their Manifesto.
In 1991, as he was grasping power, Meles changed his tune. “We expect that Ethiopia will be a really democratic country, united not by force of arms but by the freely expressed will of the people involved. I suppose we won’t need the Kalashnikov anymore.”
Today, the TPLF clings to power by the straps of Kalashnikovs comfortably cushioned by a bed of American taxpayer dollars.
Let the record show that in June 2005, a month after the 2005 election, Bereket Simon, Meles Zenawi’s step-and-fetch and one-time TPLF communication minister justifying the massacre of unarmed protesters that year repeated his boss’ accusations and predicted: “Strife between different nationalities of Ethiopia might have made the Rwandan genocide look like child’s play.” (Emphasis added.)
Let the record show that in 2015, in a secretly recorded conversation which I discussed in my commentary, “The “End of the Story” for the T-TPLF in Ethiopia?”, Berket Simon and his comrade “deputy prime minister” Addisu Legesse, plainly talked about the end of times — the final days, the last days — for the TPLF to a group of their supporters. They lamented “the end of their story” in a civil war!
Let the record show that in August 2016, Aboy Sibhat, TPLF thugmaster-behind-the-scenes, foretold the coming civil war in Ethiopia with crystal clarity:
“No people will stay under conditions of sweltering oppression for [unlimited number of] years. That is [a] universal [principle]. A people to the extent they are people, in world history, they will not stay in a [one] place as those put them there want. When the people become bitter, [the situation] explodes. This universal truth. There are no people who will not rise up when they become bitter [have had enough]; [that is a fact] historically, now or in the future.”
The Ethiopian people have become “bitter” and are “rising up” as Sebhat predicted.
Let the record show that in July 2016, TPLF general Tsadkan Gebretensaye, offered an extensive analysis (in Amharic) of TPLF rule and concluded with what clearly appeared to be a “proposal” to pull Ethiopia back from the brink of civil war.
Gebretensaye explored three “scenarios”. The very first one was what he called the possibility of things “getting out of the control of the government as a result of the questions and issues raised by the people. This could result in the total collapse of the government.” (Emphasis added.)
Gebretensaye did not explicitly say what could follow the complete “collapse of the government”, but “total collapse” sounds like civil war!
Meles and his TPLF have always used the Amhara boogeyman to cling to power. The TPLF has always sought to legitimize itself by claiming that it has freed Ethiopia’s multicultural society from “Amhara domination” built on the foundation of a unitary state.
Why can’t there be democracy in Ethiopia? The “evil Amhara” will come and take over and make everyone serfs. Why can’t the rule of law be observed in Ethiopia? The “evil Amhara” will come and take over and make everyone serfs. Why not privatize land ownership?
Former Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Herman Cohen, who facilitated the handover of power to the TPLF from the military junta in 1991 in an interview in January 2012 revealed:
“And I questioned him [Meles] about land ownership. I was promoting allowing the farmers to have ownership of the land. He said that was not good because the Amharas would come and take over and buy all the land; and these people [the farmers] would return to be serfs like they were under the Emperor.” (Emphasis added.)
In 2015, Cohen expressed his puzzlement: “I fail to understand why the Ethiopian regime feels it necessary to exercise such extreme control to the point of committing murder periodically against their own citizens.”
Murderer is as murderer murders.
Cohen was outfoxed by Meles, that villainous shapeshifter who smiled as he murdered and murdered as he smiled, to paraphrase Shakespeare.
The third irony of history is that the TPLF has become the “Amhara boogeyman” today. The old saying is true. In time, unless one is exceedingly careful, one becomes the very thing one hates.
So, the question today is, “Who is dominating the multiethnic federal state of Ethiopia today?” In other words, who has complete control of the 9 kililistans (“multiethnic federalism”)?
Who controls 100 percent of the “parliament” in Ethiopia today?
Who controls 100 percent of the top military leadership in Ethiopia today?
Who controls 100 percent of the top leadership of the civil service and bureaucracy in Ethiopia today?
Who controls 100 percent of the most profitable sectors of the economy in Ethiopia today?
“Multiethnic federalism” is slowly but surely swallowing the TPLF like a Nile crocodile.
The fourth irony of history is that the TPLF heroes who stormed into Addis Ababa in May 1991 find themselves to be loathsome villains in August 2017.
Civil war by civil disobedience?
The TPLF is now witnessing “civil war” by civil disobedience. The people of Ethiopia refuse to submit to TPLF tyrannical rule. That is an undeniable fact!
To paraphrase a line from Shakespeare in Hamlet, “When ‘civil war’ comes, it comes not in battalions but single acts of civil disobedience.”
The situation in Ethiopia has reached critical mass, the point of no return.
Meles and his TPLF disciples have been crying wolf (“Rwandan Interahamwe”) all these years to scare people into supporting them.
Well! The wolf has arrived! No doubt about it!
The wolf has arrived in the sheep’s clothing of civil disobedience, nonviolent resistance and noncooperation.
Whether the wolf has arrived or not is not the question. The question is when the wolf will take off his sheep’s clothing and bare his teeth.
The TPLF created its own Frankensteinian monster when it established its kililistans. Now, it stands in the middle of the kililistans surrounded by hungry and angry wolves.
Is Meles Zenawi’s mad prophesy about the big bad wolf coming to devour everyone in Ethiopia about to come true?
What should/can the U.S. do about the hungry and angry wolf roaming the kililistans in Ethiopia? Has the die been cast? Has Ethiopia crossed the Rubicon, the point of no return?
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