Letter from Washington: War on terror trumps promoting Ethiopian democracy – By Janine Zacharia, Bloomberg News

October 16th, 2007 Print Print Email Email

WASHINGTON: In 1998, President Bill Clinton hailed Prime Minister Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia as the leader of an African renaissance. (more…)

WASHINGTON: In 1998, President Bill Clinton hailed Prime Minister Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia as the leader of an African renaissance. Today, human-rights groups say Zenawi’s security forces are raping and murdering civilians while fighting insurgents seeking autonomy in the Ogaden region.

While the U.S. House of Representatives has passed a bill linking some Ethiopian military aid to support for human rights and democracy, President George W. Bush remains firm in his backing of Zenawi, 52, whom he considers an important ally in preventing Al Qaeda from gaining a foothold in the Horn of Africa. Ethiopia is the latest example of how the war on terror is trumping Bush’s goal of spreading democracy around the globe.

“Security concerns have prevailed as the thing that drives U.S. relations with Ethiopia at the moment,” said Terrence Lyons, associate professor of conflict resolution at George Mason University in Virginia. The administration hasn’t been willing to alter its “strategic relationship on behalf of other goals and interests,” he said.

Ethiopia is waging a U.S.-backed war in Somalia to shore up an unpopular transitional government after ousting the Islamic leadership from the capital, Mogadishu. Thousands of residents have reportedly been killed and 400,000 displaced. Zenawi has also arrested and jailed some dissidents and members of the press.

Bush opposes the House bill, which was approved Oct. 2. While the measure may not trigger a demonstrable change in U.S. policy – it has exemptions for peace-keeping and counterterrorism assistance and a national-security waiver – the vote showcases Ethiopia when few African issues, save perhaps the fighting in Darfur, grab attention.

“When you start seeing the U.S. Congress engaging in efforts like this, it’s a strong signal that something has gone really wrong in a country,” said Saman Zarifi, an advocate with Human Rights Watch in Washington.

In July, Zenawi’s government expelled the Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders from the Ogaden region. The latter reported treating civilians who said they had been beaten, shot and raped by Ethiopian security forces after several dozen soldiers were killed in a rebel attack on an oil platform.

Ethiopian troops are “among the most abusive on the continent,” Zarifi told a House panel before the vote. While the Ogaden “is not Darfur yet, it is probably only a few months away from sliding over the edge into a full-blown humanitarian crisis of massive proportions.”

Ethiopia is the second most populous country in sub-Saharan Africa after Nigeria and one of the poorest countries in the world, with a gross domestic product of $160 per capita, according to the World Bank.

The Bush administration requested $481 million for Ethiopia in the 2008 budget, mainly for health, education, civil-society groups and economic-development projects. The total includes $1.5 million in military assistance and $5 million in economic-support funds, some of which may be used for military aid.

The House bill would add $40 million over two years to support development of democratic institutions. The measure was referred to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; no date has been set for consideration in the upper chamber.

Jendayi Frazer, assistant secretary of state for African affairs, called the measure one-sided and said it would constrain what Bush is able to do to manage U.S. government interests.

She also said the Ogaden dispute was “not something we can address,” calling it a matter Ethiopia should deal with “internally, through a political process.”

Samuel Assefa, Ethiopia’s ambassador to Washington, said the bill violated Ethiopia’s sovereignty and was “destructive to regional security.”

While acknowledging that “democracy is unfinished business for us,” he said the House had ignored Zenawi’s efforts at reform, including pardons for some opposition leaders. He blamed the Ogaden rebels’ “active PR machinery” for the reported crimes against civilians.

Ethiopia has hired a former House majority leader, Dick Armey, and the Texas Republican’s lobbying firm, DLA Piper, partly to fight the legislation.

Armey’s opponents include the Ogaden rebels, who sent a delegation to Washington last month. Abdirahman Mahdi, foreign relations secretary of the Ogaden National Liberation Front, said it “will commit a mass rebellion” if there’s no international intervention.

Ethiopian Americans, who are concentrated in the Washington area, are also lobbying hard for the bill. They have organized rallies and started letter-writing campaigns to lawmakers in cities including Atlanta and Dallas with significant Ethiopian constituencies.

Disputed elections in 2005 for the Ethiopian Parliament and local councils helped galvanize the democracy movement after soldiers clashed with demonstrators alleging fraud. Nearly 200 people were killed, and several dozen opposition leaders and journalists were arrested.

Other members of the press have also been targeted. Nine reporters who were acquitted in April on anti-state charges face retrial in November. If convicted, they may get the death penalty, the Committee to Protect Journalists says.

Berhanu Nega, a 49-year old, U.S.-educated economics professor, was imprisoned after winning the race for mayor of Addis Ababa in 2005. He never took office and was released in July after 21 months in jail.

“The enthusiasm, the commitment for democracy in Ethiopia is unbelievable right now,” he said after meeting with Representative Donald Payne, Democrat of New Jersey, a leading sponsor of the House bill, during a visit to Washington last month. “People are tired of living under tyranny.”

  1. Mimi
    | #1

    After listning to the DC conference on ethiofirst.com post and attending one of the meetings by the Dr. Nega and co groups, I can tell you than their problem is beyound repair.

    As I have said it in the past and say it now, the good Engineer is a radical, old fastioned, only retherical man with no vision for the country. Now, when they get back to ethiopia, I hope here is what should and hope happens,

    1. I hope the ‘lailay mikir bet’ of kinijit speak with the same tone against this man and take a necessary action. Honestly, these two folks (bedru, and lady) are not even memeber of the party and I yet to hear any of the delegates abroad in support of this mad man. And those in the parllament are moderates and moderate view of the EPRDF and will not side with him. If they ever do it will be with the other camp. so he is a toast.

    2. Lidetu is as mad and dictatorial and control freak as Hailu shawl. DO NOT LET HIM BACK TO THE PARTY

    3. Elect Birtukan as chairwoman. tell ya’, she is fit for it.
    4. Come out with a clear vision, policy, for the nation
    5. Accept EPRDF as a political opponenet NOT an enemy of the state need to be crushed.

    6. Stick with the party principle and stick with peaceful struggle.

    The majority except some radical componenets in DC do not support Hailu Shauls move and that is not a problem.

    EPRDF supporters need to chill and be a man to face off Dr. Nega and co with structured, principled, peaceful, ‘chewa’, political showdown. I understand its scary but the time has come and stop the ‘ebdet’.

  2. Ere Amsale…
    | #2

    …”while fighting insurgents seeking autonomy in the Ogaden region.”

    What your point posting this message, here.

    I get it. “As long it is bad to meles, it doesn’t matter how it could be to Ethiopia?”
    You mean we don’t know how the ER type Internet services is working to spread messages pro OLF, ONLF and Shabia? We know it.

    This is the level of logic the Diasporas’ brain is working. The more I know them, the closer I become to the govt I didn’t like before. The GOVT is better to Ethiopia at this point that any opposition especially the BBB’s group under Andargachew(Afrsachew) watch.

  3. dildil
    | #3

    Ere Amsale,

    The minute you started complaining about “Diaspora” I knew you are woyanne pretending to be hailu shawel’s supporter. Please take off your mask and let us talk. I saw your posting earlier complaining about abudigda removing your likes comments. So be it if you write your junk ideas such as this one.

    “Dil Dil” Le Ethiopia Hizib – Double victory

  4. Damitew
    | #4

    Ere Amsale let me ask you one question who is we you mean the primitive woyanes then you are write other wise speak for your self only. Ignorant

  5. Ere Amsale…
    | #5

    Ethiopia will not forgive anymore.

    - why the so called B.Nega book carries the wrong Ethiopian map created by the enemies to destroy her Economically, politically and socially forever? The title says “Goh Siqed”. Why doesn’t he used the picture where the mass support is seen, those went to vote in early morning until evening standing at long lines, or one among the many other kind of pictures related to the title and idea?
    We know their position in prison, after the election and before they went to prison, and the search at each of one of them house, office and any related place every time by the security forces. Then why he lied to the Ethiopian people that he wrote the book while he was in prison? Or is kality the best place to become a writer? If it is, I will like to go there to get a new carrier. That means they were in vacation not in prison let alone kality we know how it looks like.

    The book is written by Andargachew Tsige and edited by Shabia Cadres. It was also published in Eritrea using the same Geez font system for return:
    1. B.Nega who was secretly working to become an Ethiopian leader to recognize the Eritrean sovereignty despite Eritrea has no international recognition boarder as the demarcation is not done and Ethiopia has still the 100% case to get a seacoast line.
    2. Andargachew agreed to be part of AFD lead by OLF and ONLF that are sheltering in Eritrea, getting training, weapons and any support from shabia to kill Ethiopians and to destabilise the country
    3. B.Mewa became a close ally with ONLF in the name of Kinijit including attending a meeting in US while the chairperson and the guests where those orchestrated the Ogaden massacre that killed 65 Ethiopians and 9 Chinese.

    Ethiopia doesn’t forgive this time especially while her very wrong map was on the book cover by someone elected to serve her but in reality became the number one ally with her enemies; shabia and those sheltering by shabia.

    Listen Mahder.com. you will get all answers to your question if really you want something good to Ethiopia. The respected Kinijit official and the Debud hezeb ketena representative (Ato Ejigu Weldemikael) from Ethiopia will tell you a three hour testimony about who is who including about H. Shawel, B.Nega, B.Mewa, B.Mekdesa and Andargachew Tsige.

  6. Fesese
    | #6

    Why B. Nega used the enemy created illegal and wrong Ethiopian map on his book cover?

    Knowing Eritrea has no international recognition boarder as long as it is not demarcated, and Ethiopia has still the 110% case to get her seacoast
    What would be his reward from shabia for his recognizing the Eritrean sovereignty that would landlocked Ethiopia forever?

    Knowing how Ethiopians are serious about, why he disrespected the Ethiopian people so blatantly treating the country that way in the book written by Andargachew, edited by shabia and published in Eritrea?

    If anyone gets the answer about these very sensitive and important questions, give me an answer. No bully. Just talk about. I want the answer, because I didn’t expect anyone from Kinijit or at that matter a true Ethiopian would treat Ethiopia and the people so badly this way.

  7. our gift
    | #7

    Ere amsale,

    you are so stupid, i read your comment that you forwarded on Professor Almariam’s lovely analysis. In that comment you appear to be a supportter of democracy, here you put yourself as one of the weyane bandas trying to distort the real problems your dictater meles is creating. Weregna neh bakih.

    Don’t cry here, kinjit is in the blood veins of all Ethiopian, no body hear your propaganda. The problem with the top managers will be solved so soon. Then you will not have any thing to try to mislead.

    We ethiopians are tired of dectator, human rights abuser, killer, raper, dividers, gotegnoch etc. Edme keseteh, weyane eji wedelay sil bekirb tayaleh.

    libana yistih eske dedebochu zemedochih

  8. Ere Amsale
    | #8

    Our Gift,


    From which impoverished towns or so called cities have you been born and badly grown up, as a spoiled child knows nothing about Ethiopia?
    You call me stupid? Yes, these days we are witnessing so many crazy and valueless individuals like you. Let me tell you a bit about my self. I know 100% the rural and 100% the urban Ethiopia. I’m a complete Ethiopian. Not a fraction one like you who sounds his being born is to be a troublemaker and less than human.

    You are fool. You don’t get it. Kinijit with ABBB is gone. They divided saying “Kinijit members out of prison and those haven’t been in prison.” Yet they also alienated themselves from those out of prisons, too. They committed a failed coup. Ethiopia is not the playground to babies like anymore. Ethiopia has many matured and committed children that you don’t belong to that category.

    Can you and your stupid similarities, the failed and worthless Diasporas, behave at least as little human do. You are too slow and too dump. Keep your crying loudly saying ABBB. The rest of the Kinijit will move on.

    Let me tell you some facts about.

    Kinijit has 60 lilay members. 56 members are active members and 4 are absent because of some reasons. What you stupid Diaspora call them “heroes” are with 5 members.

    By the way if they are heroes, what about the 193 innocent civilians massacred in daylight? What about almost 800 innocent civilians most of them are severely handicap 100% relaying on their family members and became beggars? What kind reward are you giving them? You mean we have to forget them? Because your ABBB group refused to take time first to visit those who lost family members and those wounded to give them at least a moral support? Instead they run to foreign country to be treated as heroes. Shame and funny.

    When the respected haliue shawel go back to Ethiopia, everything will be settled. The ABBB group can go to Eritrea. They also can relay on OLF and ONLF. There is a room to B. Mekdesa if she realises how they are using her for power destroying her credibility and trust from the Ethiopian people. But, But, B. Nega will never be part of Kinijit. We already know his darkest side. He had a power struggle with Lidetu. Lidetu is gone. Now he has a power struggle with hailue shawel whom has 1.35 million party members while b nega. has no single office in any rural Ethiopia where 85% the population live.

    Remember, B. Nega came back to Ethiopia to Implement the Woyane Ethnic policy education system and kilil.
    B. Mewa is the most wanted man by the govt because of millions of dollar he looted from the country. Instead of putting him to prison they did let him go. Bbecause they were afraid he would bring their crimes in public too as some members from the govt were his ally to loot the nation. He was in Dire Dawa responsible to the coffee, chat, animals, flower and other trade issues. At that time he looted the nation. It is known and documented.
    Andargachew? He is the worst Enemy Ethiopia ever has. I can’t believe a country like ours which is the mother to Heroes like Belay Zeleke can be the mother of this evil creature, too.

    You, crazy and too slow, go to hell rather than thinking an animal, saying with silly voice “Kinijit will not divided.” I tell you with hard voice to discipline you like a baby that kinijit will continue without especially B. Nega, period. If you don’t get it, be one of the sheep from the field.

    Rather than your stupid thinking, why don’t you give some reason why he used the enemy created Ethiopian map on his book? What is the reason the map had to be there the first place? Give some answer about. Stop being acting as a valueless child. Don’t lose yourself by advocating others mistake for their sake. Be for your sake. Your sake at this point is the truth about your country.

  9. tizibt
    | #9

    Please guys, if you are a supporter of Kinjit, support the party that hundreds lost their lives, thousands lost their jobs, thousands gone to jails, etc. Do not support individuals. if you go that way, you will find yourself lost very soon.

    Professor mesfin woldemariam voiced this idea in his lovely interview

    Long live Etiopiawinet

  10. tena
    | #10

    For me, the kinjit delegation visit to US brilliantly showed who are moving forward towards democratization. The five delegates. Keep on Birtukan leading to the democracy we are deprived of for many years.

    Engineer Hailu, I really felt shame for you. Yaltadele Amhara besewe sime yisedebal. It would have been good if you hide your personal ego for the benefit of all Ethiopians.

  11. WOYANE
    | #11

    Ladies and Gentlmen,

    Let`s go and solve your internal crises first rather than posting trash articles.Really,we at EPDRF Camp currently loughing at you.When it becomes a matter of siltan you are fighting eachother…amazing

    Woyane from 4kilo

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