Ethiopia: The diplomacy of defending dictatorship By Alemayehu G Mariam

September 26th, 2011 Print Print Email Email

“It is time to stop hating Ethiopia.”

In November 2006, in her farewell cable to her replacement Donald Yamamoto and the Assistant Secretary of State Jendayi Fraser, former Acting U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia Vicky Huddleston warned: “It is time to stop hating Ethiopia.”

In November 2007, in a N.Y. Times op-ed piece, Huddleston sternly admonished the U.S. Congress: “Do not turn on Ethiopia.” She lectured Congress that “by singling out Ethiopia for public embarrassment, the bill puts Congress unwittingly on the side of Islamic jihadists and insurgents.” She sought to alarm Congress by raising the specter of “enemies that have besieged Ethiopia from within and without.” She advised Congress to discard H.R. 2003 (Ethiopia Democracy and Accountability Act) “and instead use creative diplomacy to deal with the combined threat of insurgency and war.” She said if the U.S. does not support the ruling regime in Ethiopia, the U.S. could “lose Ethiopia” and “cede our influence” to China and Russia.

In October 2007, Samuel Assefa, the former ambassador of the ruling regime in Ethiopia to the U.S. complained: “The U.S. House of Representatives today approved irresponsible legislation that, if it becomes law, would create fresh obstacles to Ethiopia’s bold efforts towards comprehensive democratic reforms. The legislation also would undermine regional stability in the Horn of Africa by jeopardizing vital security cooperation between the United States and Ethiopia.” Assefa later told the Washington Post, “We are very disappointed because the House did not pursue an agenda that is recognizably that of the U.S., Ethiopia or friends of democracy.”

If the names of the two ambassadors had been withheld, even the most sophisticated reader would have difficulty recognizing which one of the two ambassadors is the actual representative of the ruling regime in Ethiopia. But Huddleston’s rhetorical pyrotechnics on behalf of a host country is rare for the guileful world of diplomacy, and certainly disproves the old saying is that “An ambassador is an honest man (woman) sent to lie abroad for the good of his (her) country (not the other country).”

Gone Native?

But Huddleston’s defense of Zenawi’s regime would put many a silver-tonged American trial lawyer to shame. Reading Huddleston’s farewell cable, one is confused about which country she represents. Her zeal and passion in defending Zenawi’s regime is so bizzare, one has to wonder if she had indeed “gone native” (a phrase sometimes used to describe U.S. diplomats who work so fully inside a foreign culture that their policy recommendations become those of the host country). In her cable, she pleads with her bosses that Zenawi is “the ideal partner” and America’s buffer “from terrorism and radical Islam” in the Horn. She argues that Zenawi is the only one who can keep together the “old and fragile Ethiopian empire”. She paints Zenawi as a man of reason and as evidence of that she claims he has listened to her and dropped “charges against VOA reporters and 14 others.” She says by having “conversations with Meles and the EPRDF”, she has “effectively encouraged Meles and the GOE to deepen their commitment to Ethiopia’s democracy and development.” She believes H.R. 2003 is a “hubristic” manifestation of American arrogance, imperiousness, condescension and disrespect for Zenawi. For all the things temporal Zenawi can do, Huddleston forgot to mention that he can also walk on water.

But Huddleston has no respect or use for Zenawi’s opposition. She advises that the “goal” of the “nay-sayers” who oppose Zenawi “is neither democracy nor development, but regime change.” To help the naysayers is to “unwittingly contribute to the break-up of the nation.” She reserves her special antipathy for the jingoistic and chauvinistic “hard-line supporters [of the CUD] in the Diaspora [who] are unwilling to engage in the democratic process.” She warns that if the U.S. acts “aggressively to appease the Diaspora, some members of Congress and some civil society groups, we will lose Ethiopia.”

In Defense of Zenawi

In her defense of Zenawi, Huddleston pulls out all the stops and uses every trick in the diplomatic pouch to steer the new ambassador to fully support Zenawi. She pleads and coaxes, warns and charges, vilifies and condemns just to sustain unflagging American support for Zenawi.

“We must strengthen our partnership”

“As I prepare to turn over my responsibilities to my good friend and respected colleague, Ambassador Don Yamamoto, I urge the USG to maintain and strengthen our partnership with Ethiopia. Ethiopia is moving in the right direction — despite the nay-sayers — on democracy, development, and protecting the region from terrorism and radical Islam. If we fail to consolidate and support Ethiopia, we could unwittingly contribute to the break-up of the nation, and fuel a Christian – Muslim conflict in the Horn…

CUD leaders could cause Ethiopia’s national disintegration

Ethiopia is an old empire but a fragile one. Political and religious divisions could potentially tear away parts of Oromiya, Gambella, and the Somali region from the uneasy federation. Even Tigray, where the Abyssinian empire began, is at risk because the jailed CUD leaders want a unitary state that includes Eritrea, and Tigrean and Eritreans alike will resist Amahara domination.

The CUD defendants and Diaspora supporters are extremist hardliners

The prosecution has recently argued somewhat more persuasively through ongoing witness testimony that some of the defendants called for armed uprising and protest to overthrow the government. Some of the CUD detained leaders as well as their vocal, hard-line supporters in the Diaspora are unwilling to engage in the democratic process, whether by joining Parliament or by agreeing to disavow street action.

Ethiopia as the “only democratic nation” and “bulwark against radical Islam”

Ethiopia, with its 77 million Christian and Muslims — the second most populus country in Africa — would seem to be the ideal partner… It is the only democratic nation that can project power throughout the Horn. It is also the remaining bulwark against the expansion of radical Islam throughout Somalia and beyond.

We are part of Zenawi’s “inner circle”

Because we built a relationship of trust with the Prime Minister and his inner circle as well as with the opposition… Our conversations with Meles and the EPRDF hierarchy have effectively encouraged Meles and the GOE to deepen their commitment to Ethiopia’s democracy and development. Dialogue between the ruling EPRDF party and all the opposition parties resulted in the overwhelming adoption of modified Parliamentary rules that reflect international standards and permit the opposition to question Minister and propose laws. The on-going dialogue among the ruling party and opposition has already addressed rule of law issues in the Oromia and Amhara regions and will now publicly review a new media law and capacity building at the National Electoral Board.

Ethiopian Democracy and Accountability Act HR 2003) is Bad

The democratic trend is positive. But the partnership will not be strengthened if we bend to demands to pass legislation that puts Ethiopia in the same category as countries on our terrorist list, or make public our private concerns about human rights and governance. Ethiopia — as I have learned — will not act from weakness or because of public threats or even loss of aid. If we stay the course — continue the partnership, and build the trust — not only do we stand a good chance of getting the prisoners pardons, but we will reinforce good governance, economic reform and defense against terrorism in the Horn.

“The right and wrong way to persuade” Zenawi

If we aggressively and publicly press Meles in order to appease the Diaspora, some members of Congress and some civil society groups, we will lose Ethiopia. We will cede our influence, leaving the field to China, Russia and others who have little interest in helping to create a multi-party democracy.

Putting pressure on Zenawi is helping the enemies of “democracy and development”

Ethiopia is neither — as its critics like to claim — a Marxist-Leninist dictatorship, nor is it a multi-party democracy that strictly adheres to open market principles. But if hubris demands that partnership be based on our standards, then we will find ourselves helping those whose principal goal is neither democracy nor development, but regime change.

“Meles will turn to China as a more reliable partner”

Meles has already turned to China as a more reliable partner than Europe, even though EU assistance levels have been restored. Today we have a strong relationship with Meles and the inner circle, but it is a wary one. It is not yet a full partnership because Washington remains hesitant over Ethiopia’s human rights record, despite significant improvements over last year. As Ethiopia faces – almost alone — a radical Islamist challenge to its existence and the region’s stability, it is time to put aside our hesitations and make Ethiopia a full partner of the US.

The Enemies of Ethiopia

At the same time, insurgents from Oromiya (the OLF) and the Ogaden (the ONLF), backed by Eritrea, will move east into Ethiopia. The ONLF intends to break off Ethiopia’s Somali region, uniting it with a Greater Somali state. The OLF will either ensure that there is regime change in Addis Ababa or separate Oromiya from Ethiopia. In the end, Ethiopia’s enemies — most notably Eritrea — would be successful in breaking up Ethiopia and ousting Meles.

“A Plan of action for Ethiopia”

I have met with Meles biweekly on average and I have never had a meeting with him in which I did not raise the issues of governance and human rights. As a result, I have been able to visit the prisoners three times and am working with concerned Ethiopians and Ethiopian-Americans on a process that may lead to pardons. The point here is that Meles — and the inner circle — listen to our advice if it is given in private and as a partner. Therefore I would suggest that we lay out a series of bench marks which can be used by Washington to gauge Ethiopia’s progress…

Huddleston’s “series of bench marks to gauge Ethiopia’s progress”

Parliament passes a media law and anti-terrorism laws that meet international standards;

The opposition is consulted on the appointment of a new, neutral National Electoral Board;

Parliament approves public financing for political parties;

GOE engages successfully with donors on the governance matrix;

The Government pursues the investigations recommended by the Independent Inquiry Commission;

Offices of legal opposition parties that have not been reopened are opened;

All legal parties are permitted to participate in the Spring elections;

The judicial process is completed and a verdict determined for all CUD detainees [and pardon given to those] who agree not to engage in illegal activities or civil disobedience are pardoned;

Preparations for local elections are done in consultation with the opposition; and local elections are successfully held.

The Evidence of Huddleston’s “Benchmarks”

The so-called anti-terrorism proclamation, with its vague and broad definition of terrorist acts, is now the principal tool of crushing all dissent in the country. It has been condemned by international rights groups as one of the most repressive laws of its kind in the world. There is no neutral “National Electoral Board”. In 2010, the largest coalition of opposition parties received the equivalent of USD$176 (3,000 birr) according to one major opposition leader. Human Rights Watch reported in 2010 that “donor-supported programs” have been used to “control the population, punish dissent, and undermine political opponents.” Zenawi’s handpicked Inquiry Commission determined after a meticulous investigation that 193 unarmed demonstrators were massacred in 2005 and 763 wounded. 237 of the killers still roam the streets free. In the past few weeks, leaders and members of opposition political parties, journalists and others have been jailed and many others continue to face intimidation, harassment and persecution. The first female leader of a political party in the history of Ethiopia, Birtukan Midekssa, was jailed for nearly two years on bogus charges of denying a pardon. The 2010 U.S. Human Rights report stated, “criminal courts remained weak, overburdened, and subject to significant political intervention and influence.” In the 2008 local elections, Zenawi’s party “won all but a handful of 3.6 million seats.” In May 2010, Zenawi’s party won the election by 99.6 percent.

It is regrettable that Huddleston did not read or ignored the findings and evidence in the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – Ethiopia for the years 2005 and 2006.

It is time to love Ethiopia!


    | #1

    I never understand America’s support to the murderious regime to such unimaginable degree of a sort. If this is the sort of America’s advice to the Meles regime, Meles need no one to advice him within his circle since American Ambassadors are the best for him. If this is the fact why not every Ethiopian turned to be supporter of those waging war against the regime including OLF< EPPF … etc. with a precondition to remain united after the fall of Meles. To that effect, people MUST start counter terror in the street of Addis Ababa to oust Meles by force.

  2. Anonymous
    | #2


  3. Sheger
    | #3

    That clearly says, The Ethiopian people and it’s democracy don’t matter to them except their interest. What kind of stability and security are they building after all. That clearly states. They support the brutal regime. It doesn’t have to be
    Osama Ben laden to call some body a terrorist. If you in fact terrorize the people to this magnitude.

    No democracy means no democracy.
    No freedom means no freedom.
    No protection means no security.
    And people are people no matter where.
    You can not and shale not guid the nations future wrong by siding with tyrants.

    Did they count the peoples votes????…………….p l e a s e…..when they care actually.

  4. Sheger
    | #4

    Why would he work with them if they hate him any ways. Not that they should like him or them.

    May next time they shouldn’t call him or them Ethiopia. His got nothing to do with Ethiopia. My understanding he doesn’t
    Even like the name Ethiopia. He has a hatred for the country it self. This is what we are dealing with.

  5. Sheger
    | #5

    They have seen them committing murder with their own eye in 2005 election and 50 thousand people got arrested
    And people are getting arrested all the time until now. All private medias are blocked and the so called public TV (ETV)
    their propaganda machin.

  6. Atakilti
    | #6

    I have read many articles written by this learned man. I have respect for Professor Alemayehu for his achievement as a scholar and his love for his country. I have also read an article about his daughter accomplishment and as a successful father myself would like to congratulate him for raising his chill to such admirable result.

    In the meantime, I would like to politely express my disassociation from him on several points he brought up in this and other articles he wrote in the past.

    He vehemently disagrees with Vick Huddleston’s accurate assessments about Ethiopia. I agree with Huddleston.

    1) Cud leaders could cause the national disintegration of Ethiopia. She mad no mistakes about that. CUD was made up of so many splinter groups and with hidden agenda about the country. It was a shaky group with zero support in the army. They proved their shabby foundation when it collapsed and went asunder right after losing the election. Gee Whiz!!! Ethiopia has always stretched her hands unto The Almighty and God saved her from vanishing away. Each nationality would have to resort to defending itself and in most cases turning on others. There would have been no viable force to stop rag-rag vagabonds of OLF and ONLF to march into Addis Ababa and Jijiga respectively and set up their fiefdoms. You are talking about bloodshed of historic proportion the country never seen. Destructive groups would have endless supply of killer arms for depots set up just for this purpose by Ghoulish Isaias of Eritrea.
    2) CUD supporters in the Diaspora are extremists. Again I don’t see any faults in her view of such groups outside the country. Terrorist groups such as OLF and ONLF have their headquarters in the Western countries. They connive and conspire to send the country to abyss from these headquarters and still do.
    3) Ethiopia as the “only democratic nation” and “bulwark against radical Islam. She
    hit it right on the nose. Ethiopians have resolved their religious issues peacefully
    many centuries ago and coexisted harmoniously for a long time save the
    times of Gragn Ahmed. But since the 1990’s certain extremist groups are out there hell-bent to start another day of reckoning awash with religious conflicts.
    4) We are part of Zenawi’s “inner circle” – I will leave this to the readers. What was
    not true about this claim? It shows leaders of both countries are working together.
    5) Ethiopian Democracy and Accountability Act (HR 2003) is Bad. Again, history
    proved that this legislation was ill-intended and wrong. It has been relegated to the garbage bin just like CUD itself. Its ‘extreme leftist’ sponsors are gone and on the way out. The American voters had agreed with her by throwing the bums out.
    6) “The right and wrong way to persuade” Zenawi – The change of hearts in the
    significant part of the Diaspora since she made this remark is the testimony of her accurate advice. Just look at the support given to the Millennium Dam by the Diaspora. It has been overwhelming.
    7) “Meles will turn to China as a more reliable partner”. This is also true for many
    reasons. China is not only looking for places to dump its cheap goods, it is also preparing for the time when making certain products in its territories may not be cost effective due to rising labor cost. It has already started looking for areas where it can continue to manufacture labor-intensive goods abroad. Ethiopia with its 80 million people would be an ideal destination. But that will never affect the alliance between USA and The Ethiopian people against terrorism.
    8) The Enemies of Ethiopia – She brought up OLF, ONLF and Eritrea as such
    enemies. This is a hands down and well-documented assertion. And they still are. These groups are Amhara-Tigray hating bigots sponsored by Isaias.

    So what is wrong with Huddleston’s proposal? She was not a sell-out but a respected diplomat. She was a friend of Ethiopia and will remain in the hearts of the Ethiopian people forever. We should thank her.

    In the meantime, I wish and continue to pray for Professor Alemayehu where he will use his extra-ordinary talents to better use in areas beneficial to our people of Ethiopia we all love. May God Bless you and your family!!!

  7. Sheger
    | #7

    Wy don’t this so called Ogadians go to Somalia if they want too. Ogaden is Ethiopia and the land thy seeded to Sudan is
    Ethiopia. We are not going to give lands to now one no more if any thing we will bring back Eritiria and our sea doors.
    And what good is Somalia for any body at this moment??????? Ethiopia is becoming Somalia for their info. If I wore them I will just unite with the rest of Ethiopia and east Africa and beuld democracy and stability. They are Ethiopians any ways most of them.

    You know some time it feels like Europe and America acts like a lobbyist to the Arab world. Though what they say is different. Amazing.

  8. Birtu/can
    | #8

    Yet,here we are running to the state department or the white house every time woyane sets an agenda. While woyane is conducting a preemptive preparation for the next so-called election well in advance by detaining opposition members, journalists..etc, recruiting new members to its front, fortifying its army–we are conducting a short sighted meaningless protest in front of the state department. I have got news for you! Americans are building drone bases in Ethiopia in exchange for turning a blind eye. Woyane always ups the ante and this is a “you scratch my back–i will scratch yours” kind of deal.

    This is insanity! Someone has to come up with an extensive analyses of the Ethiopian opposition groups conduct past and present. We should question the vision, motive and manhood of its leadership. The only thing that these groups(parties) are good for is churning out statements after statements or sending us into a wild goose chase in the name of a protest.If i didn’t know any better, i could scream “sabotage”. I am not going in details about the lack of vision or shortcomings of these groups/leadership, because woyane’s stooges would love to use them for propaganda purposes. Bottom line–talk is cheap; it is time for swift action.Protesting in-front of the state department or the white house will not make a dent to woyane’s inflated ego–will not change the partnership between America and woyane.If you are seeking publicity–storm the Ethiopian embassy.Instead of the American government–go to the American citizens and explain to them how their tax money is being wasted BY tyrants in Africa/Ethiopia. Start punishing woyane where it hurts most–the pocket book. Boycott everything connected to woyane’s business enterprises.I am not an economist; but if the diaspora can collectively withhold sending money for a certain period of time to Ethiopia( say every other six months)–we can create chaos in its domestic and foreign financial dealings affecting its banking system. In the present political atmosphere in Ethiopia, drying woyane’s cash flow is an idea whose time has come. To make a long comment short, stop running/begging Americans and make a fool of yourselves. America will deal with the devil to keep her interests and in this case Meles happens to be the devil.You can only deal with America from the stand point of strength,not by whining in-front of their establishments.When they see in us what they saw in Egypt or Tunisia,then they will kick Meles to the curb. Guaranteed!


  9. Girum
    | #9

    Ethiopia Stretches its hand to Almighty God!!!
    Not the other way round that Ethiopia Stretches its hand to mighty Empire called USA!!!
    Does US cares that much about Ethiopian peoples interest or about its own interest???
    Does US cares that much about democracy for others or about its own interest?
    If US really cares as such about democratic values outside it local territory then why it has been so deeply engaged for so long in such sort of relationship with the Saudi Monarch where there is no election no free-press even no permission for women to drive a car.
    Ato Meles is just a sort of one of the client-regimes of US.
    Can any body as such answer me the following basic question?
    What is the very rational basis for US or the other West to worry this much or that much about the prevalence of democracy in other nations?
    Unless we reclaim our rational thinking and dig out truths,then just simply being guided by mere facts that are here and there,then we can not understand what is going on.Unless we deeply understand the nature of the global political economy then we end up with nothing significant.Unless we deeply understand the inherent historical nature of Ato Meles and its TPLF thug then we end up with nothing significant.
    Without taking the above vital issues just simply talking about democracy and human right does not as such hold a cup of water.
    And that is why we all time are in confusion,vicious-circle and stalemate.
    God bless Ethiopia and all its poor and innocent peoples!!!

  10. ጉረኞች
    | #10

    Wedi Atakilti
    Professor Al is serving his country Ethiopia by battling sell-out woynae officials in a way he does best. He doesn’t need either your/foot-soldier woyane support or advice. As one of the woyane’s prime stooge, you are trying your best to discredit him. You will never succeed though. I’m sure he will continue exposing the crimes of woyane as he is doing now. There is nothing you can do about it, except licking your wounds. As a reader of his articles, it is so exciting to see such an Ethiopian fighting tooth and nail against one of the notorious dictators in the world and a good citizen cannot ask more from him.

  11. Atakilti
    | #11


    I don’t think the respected Professor Alemayehu will agree with your type of business of name calling. You are well below his station. I am having a lively discussion with him and according to our ages old ethics you are not supposed to interrupt with such uninvited intercession. It is considered rude, if you don’t know. Utterly rude.

  12. Girmay
    | #12

    The person with the pseudo name Atakilti is a weyanne or ethno-fascist and the blind follower or supporter of his fascist and racist ethnic leader, Meles Zenawi. We do not expect a healthy, rational and constructive discussions and exchange of ideas with the TPLF ethno-fascists. Fascists and racists have lost the faculty for reasoning and rational thinking. Any dialogue with them can take one to their level, the lowest level of the human thinking or bordering on the beast brain.

  13. ጉረኞች
    | #13

    Wedi Atakilti
    That was a good one, …the do not interrupt us part made me laugh. If what you said is the case, you have to make your lively discussion in private so that a person cannot rudely interrupt the discussion. But, this forum is open. They made it for all people who has interest to state their view either on the article or on any of the comments. It so happens I found your comments not only apologetic to woyane dictators but also a twisted logic. I simply exercise the right the forum provided me.

  14. Atakilti
    | #14

    You Girmay!!
    If you are an Eritrean, you have no business here. Beat it!!!
    Otherwise, I was wondering if you know the right meaning of the terms you used to describe me. Do you know what fascism mean and how is comes to life? Do you? I don’t think so. You are making or being an echo to whoever lent you those words. Your ‘beloved’ professor would be very happy to give you the right definition of fascism and I am sure at the same time he will indicate to you how dumb you are. If I were you I would stop talking from now onward and let people think you have turned a deaf beast of burden something like a ‘getaaba’ horse.

  15. Gaye! Beka! Enough!
    | #15

    A supporter of an ethino fascist is a fasicist. This old weyane man called Atakilti Hagose is loosing it. Now he started harassing us Ethiopians. Hagose if you can’t handle the heat. get out of the kitchen. getaaba weyane.

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