Woyane Occupied Ethiopia: A Country that Purchase Toothpicks with Food-Aid – By Orion Asmelash
After touring different places and evaluating Ethiopia’s economic condition, In 2006 reporting from Mekele, BBC’s correspondent Peter Greste said “Like a patient addicted to pain killers, Ethiopia seems hooked on aid”. Today, Greste’s description is not only a reality witnessed during his visit but a prophetic fulfillment and a reflection of the regime’s mentality to continuously depend on food aid.
Ethiopia, a nation in which 80% of the population depends in Agriculture is stricken again with a deadly food crisis, according to latest report it is affecting nearly 5 million of its population. The 1984 famine that affected close to 8 million people and took 1 million lives is a short time memory for many of us. At that time, BBC Journalist Michael Buerk described the 1984 crisis as “a biblical famine” and “the closest thing to hell on Earth”. The live fund raising initiative directed by the Irish Singer and political activist, Bob Geldof which drew over 400 million viewers worldwide was considered the most widely viewed broadcast ever in history at that time. Today, International Aid Agencies are sending their messages worldwide with a call to revert the deteriorating condition of drought in Ethiopia and Somalia. According to them a biblical like famine similar to the 1984 is inevitable unless immediate intervention is taken by the international community.
Ethiopia is usually referred as one of the “water tower” of Africa. It has several big rivers, the world famous Nile River is one of them. Over all, “an estimated volume of 122 billion m3 of water runoff annually and has almost close to 6 billion m3 of ground water potential. If distributed to the population, on average each person would get a share of 1500 m3”,which is a significant volume. Beyond that, Ethiopia owns great lakes and a vast fertile land that is suitable for agriculture with a capability of feeding the continent of Africa.
Over 25 years has passed since that deadly crisis in 1984 but Ethiopia has still not liberated herself from food aid. It is hardly difficult to swallow Ethiopia’s continuous use of drought as an excuse for its current crisis. It is therefore a legitimate question to ask what the current regime in Ethiopia was doing for the last 20 years to address food security. Unless it is explained from the perspective of incompetency in leadership, incompatible and failed political, social and economic strategies, 20 years is relatively sufficient to attain at least food security. Though much more can be expected in 20 years, today, no one is asking how many extra ordinary miracles were accomplished in Ethiopia’s economic progress but rather a mind puzzling question of why still dependent on food aid. There are two main factors that contributed to Ethiopia’s crisis and to the horn in general. One is the regime’s addiction to conflicts and wars, and the other is its ethnic based divide and rule policy that has divided and disintegrated the social and political aspects of the country. Now, it is threatening its survival from every direction. From the time it took power until now, Ethiopia has never stopped its senseless adventurism. First, the regime wagged war with Eritrea and then with Somalia. In both cases Ethiopia got nothing except a deteriorating economy.
Drought and natural disasters are common phenomenon to all countries in the world. Nevertheless, Ethiopia’s current regime uses drought as an excuse to cover up its incompetency and for other diversionary scheme. It is heart breaking however when food aid is used as a protection and support mechanism to a dictatorial regime. Often times, food aid is provided to Zenawi’s regime after coming back from its evil, destructive and destabilizing missions in the horn of Africa.
To conceal its incompetency, Zenawi and his followers played a blame game tactics and as we have seen it so far that is what dominated the regime’s politics for the past 20 years. For every failure there is someone to blame for. Recently, in the month of June, Ethiopia experienced a high rate of price instability, 38.1% inflation rate shacked its already struggling economy. Many Economists argue that it was caused by its imprudent fiscal and monetary policies. However, Zenawi’s finger points to Ethiopia’s merchants as the main cause of high rate of inflation.
Considering the regime’s past diversionary tactics, it is highly probable that the Regime is calling the international community for additional food aid on one hand, with the aim to stabilize the food price that is crippling the Ethiopian economy and on the other to play a toothpicks with food aid strategy. Few weeks ago, Zenawi’s Regime purchased 200 military tanks worth $100 million from Ukraine while close to 5 million of the people are in need of emergency food aid. The international community sympathizes with Ethiopia because it sees it only from the perspective of humanitarian crisis not from the regime’s hidden adventurous, narrow, and aggressive war addicted mentality. Ethiopia has been spoiled by western governments and aid agencies for centuries. What Ethiopia’s regime is cooking now under the skirt and cover of food aid is not secret to the inhabitants of the horn region. Ethiopia recently has publicly threatened Eritrea to wage war by declaring a “regime change”. It is undeniable fact to those who have been following its behavior for the past 20 years that the minority regime is more concerned about how to stay in power than to improve the lives of its people.
In addition to the toothpick with food aid strategy, the regime also uses “divide and rule” policy to extend its life expectancy for additional few years. Ethiopia’s political condition is highly discordant and many agree that it is a result of the “divide and rule” ethnic based political strategy that has been going on for the last 20 years. Thus, creating friction between the people across different ethnic groups with the aim of trying to avoid a possible united opposition threat, though it is temporarily suitable to rule, it has its own consequences but again the regime blames opposition parties like the Oromo liberation from (OLF), Ginbot7 and others for any internal political turmoil and instability. Often times, the tiny red sea state of Eritrea have also been used as a scape got to cover up its political, social and economic failures. This time however, unless it has something in process on its bloody backyard to blame other entities, the regime has no option left than to blame the creator of the universe for the current food crisis.
Regarding food aid, Zenawi’s Regime has horrible and immoral track records. Directly or indirectly Ethiopia’s minority regime has repeatedly used food aid for other sinister objectives. Before coming to power, in 1984-85 at a time millions were dying, the Tigray Liberation front (TPLF), the old rebel group of the current regime, has received nearly $100 million cash from western governments and charities to feed thousands of drought stricken people in the Tigray region. However, according to the BBC journalist and Editor, Martin Plaut’s investigation, 95% of the money received was diverted and used to purchase ammunitions and other weaponry. This is the most inhuman, outrageous and cruel act of crime ever registered in the history of Ethiopia. Instead of buying food to save the lives of its people to whom it claimed was fighting to liberate them from a dictator, TPLF purchased weapons with food aid. A tragedy of its kind and a different form of genocide ever committed on the people of Ethiopia! After all, if not Zenawi’s regime who would give to his children “a stone when they ask for bread? Or a snake when they ask for fish? Or a scorpion when they ask for egg?”
In the first 10 years of its power, as much political and economic pressure is coming from different directions, the regime took the initiative to divert the attention of the people to the neighboring country, Eritrea. While millions were crying for a real change from poverty, the regime offered the people another toothpick by waging war with Eritrea. It was the silliest, foolish and irrational decision, and as we notice the crisis today, the consequence outweighed the intended objective, which is to divert the attention of the people from the main issue, poverty and real economic change.
The tactic has temporarily worked by brain washing the people with propaganda and galvanized many to the unjust and illogical war front which took more than 100,000 lives with no reason. In this war, the Ethiopian people have gained nothing than aggravating their poverty and deteriorating their already devastated economic condition. During that time, Ethiopia spent millions of dollars to purchase weapons and to hire foreign Jet fighters. What is more astonishing however is not Ethiopia’s actions but in April 2000, right after the war foreign governments and aid agencies provided 600,000 tonnes of food aid to Ethiopia. While Ethiopia purchases weapons, the international community provides food aid. It is the regime’s continuous strategy to purchase toothpicks with food aid but the international community seems to blindly ignore the obvious fact. What a good lesson to teach a 20 years old regime! This is how foreign governments and Aid Agencies create a dictator, especially America.
The following are real statistical facts obtained from The Global Humanitarian Assistance (GHA)
Ethiopia has been a top 10 recipient of humanitarian aid in nine of the last 10 years.
Since 1999, 23.5% of Ethiopia’s aid – official development assistance (ODA) – has been in the form of humanitarian assistance.
In 2008, the United States contributed 67.8% of Ethiopia’s humanitarian aid.
On average, 77.2% of all humanitarian aid to Ethiopia between 2005 and 2009 was spent on food aid.
In 2008, Ethiopia received US$3.3 billion as ODA, the second largest recipient of ODA that year, after Afghanistan.
Having received enormous amount of humanitarian and development assistance for the past 20 years, Ethiopia has still failed to attain food security. The main reason is clear; Ethiopia spends millions to buy toothpicks than to development programs. Until the international community reviews its aid policies and Ethiopia changes its aid dependent mentality and abstains from its adventurism to destabilize the region, it is unlikely to expect change in Ethiopia’s economic progress.
In year 2011, Ethiopia has struggled in different areas. Putting its volatile and unstable internal political condition on the side, Inflation, food security crisis, continuous depreciation of its currency and population growth has highly threatened the regimes treasury house. In Ethiopia, everything is inflated even the usual Easter season preaching of double digit economic growth for the last 10 years, now seems to be in greater scrutiny. It is illogical to say the economy grew in 11% for the last 10 years while people’s standard of living is in deterioration and continuously depending on food aid. If the person’s salary last year was $100 with a family size of 2 people, this year with an increase of 10% receives $110 but a new child added to the family and inflation rate of 38%, it is hardly difficult to speak about growth. This is called an economic degradation than economic growth. However, the regime’s propaganda seems to stand as the most inflated and exaggerated of all other things.
Zenawi’s regime instead of learning from past mistakes chose rather to continue its adventure to destabilize and disintegrate the horn of Africa. The reason is obvious, whenever there is peace, unity and regional integration, Zenawi’s regime feels threatened and frustrated because it is against its political philosophy that “divide and rule” is the only way to stay in power when you are a minority government. Thus, it is hardly difficult to expect a change in character from this regime. That is why Somalia was purchased as a brand new toothpick with the idea of extending the regime’s life expectancy for a much more better years than the first tooth pick, Eritrea.
The Regime took the opportunity of the war on terrorism as a pretext to invade a sovereign nation, Somalia. This time not only diverted the minds of innocent people of Ethiopia but the world at large. The Ethiopian people has learned from the regime’s previous tactics and very soon realized it is a diversionary course, thus they immediately rejected it. However, Somalia still seems to be marketable for a while when it comes to deceiving the international community. How long will it take for the international community to figure it out will remain a question for all of us, but the time will not be too far.
As a result of Ethiopia’s invasion, Somalia currently is listed as the first top failed state in this planet. Today, Somalis are in great danger; facing the worst social, economic and humanitarian crisis in their history. In the last few years alone, several Somali governments have been established, all of whom were born abroad as a result of Ethiopia’s political prostitution, few of them were aborted at an early infancy stage and the current so called Transitional Federal Government (TFG) is breathing with oxygen. Without the participation of all Somalis it is unthinkable to expect peace and stability in the region. Somalia is currently divided and disintegrated into different ethnic groups. Ethiopia’s invasion created havoc and has triggered the most disastrous humanitarian crisis in history.
According to the, Elman Peace and Human Rights Organization, as of December 2008 alone, 16,210 civilians had been killed and 29,000 wounded. This is since the start of Ethiopia’s illegal invasion in 2006 and this data does not include the continuing crisis after 2008. The report continues that, In September of that year they had documented 1.9 million displaced civilians from homes in Mogadishu alone during the year 2007. Few days ago, CNN reported that 3.7 million Somalis are in need of emergency food aid, it is about 50% of the population. It has to be clear that Somalis did not create the current crisis; rather it is the result of Ethiopia’s undercover political prostitution and illegal invasion. Thus, Ethiopia is fully responsible for the humanitarian crisis both inside Ethiopia and in Somalia. Ethiopia’s myopic regime is undermining the irrevocable natural law that “what you saw is what you get”. All these adventurism might seem entertaining for short period of time. However, after the rainy season there is always harvest time.
The International community, especially the United States of America, need to examine and review its horn of African policy. Ethiopia’s continuous illegal activity in destabilizing the region and creating humanitarian crises as we are noticing it in Somalia is unacceptable. Even though, drought has its own contributions, the current crisis is mainly caused by Ethiopia. Military intervention is not a solution; rather it will aggravate the situation. At a time America is struggling to solve its debt problems, it is better to find a lasting solution to have an all-inclusive political dialogue from Somalis, by Somalis and for Somalis without external intervention than spending millions of tax payers’ dollars for a policy that is continuously failing time and again for more than 25 years.
Humanitarian assistance is commendable to help those who are in desperate situation, but it is a temporary solution and does not solve the main chronic issue. Ethiopia’s adventurous political strategy is faulty and destructive both for the people of Ethiopia and the horn.
Narrow and selfish short term political and economic interest should not be allowed to override Justice. A peaceful and prosperous horn of Africa is a benefit both to the people of the region and to America’s long term interest.
Orion Asmelash can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org