Cry for Mother Ethiopia – By Yilma Bekele

June 11th, 2008 Print Print Email Email

The news from home is not good. We are doing it again. If I remember right this is the third or fourth time around. The first was in 1974. The whole world wept with us. Over 200,000 people died in Wollo alone. The famine sealed the fate of the Imperial regime.

The next double famine in one country was the 1984-85. There was famine in the north (Tigrai) and famine in the south (Oromia). This famine prompted the famous concert ‘Live Aid’ which raised over $100 million US. (more…)

The news from home is not good. We are doing it again. If I remember right this is the third or fourth time around. The first was in 1974. The whole world wept with us. Over 200,000 people died in Wollo alone. The famine sealed the fate of the Imperial regime.

The next double famine in one country was the 1984-85. There was famine in the north (Tigrai) and famine in the south (Oromia). This famine prompted the famous concert ‘Live Aid’ which raised over $100 million US.
We were faced with food shortage again in 2000. The West was happy that the ‘early warning system’ they set up worked. Our people died, but not at a higher rate they said. Our country, our people, the word ‘Ethiopia’ has become a synonym for hunger.

There are certain deficiencies one cannot overcome. Things like your location on planet earth is one. But we are lucky to be located at the confluence of civilization. We are blessed with being the cradle of civilization in its truest sense. We have a climate that is the envy of the world. You can travel from the Semen Mountains on top of the world to Danakil lowlands below sea level to the Awash Valley, the Rift Valley with beautiful Shala, Zuwai, and lovely Langano, and south to Arba Minch. We have everything going for us.

We can be the breadbasket of East Africa and Arabia. What went wrong? Why are we dying of hunger? Why are we relying on donations and good will of the West to survive? Are we so stupid and dense that they have to come from Oxford and Harvard to find out why we go hungry? What is it about food that it is such a powerful weapon?

We are hungry and destitute for variety of reasons. The single most important cause of hunger is ‘lack of sovereignty’. We are not in charge anymore. This trend did not start yesterday. We have been sliding towards this hellhole of ‘neo-colonial’ camp the last forty years or so. After assuming power the TPLF minority regime was too happy to facilitate the eventual take over of our country by the industrialized west and international bankers.
The mafia clique in charge is doing this not because they are evil, nor because they have a hidden agenda to destroy Ethiopia and liberate Tigrai. That is just a smoke screen. The people of Tigrai are made to feel insecure by waving Amhara Nationalism. The Amhara are made hostile towards all of Tigrains by overplaying the non-existent over development of the region at the expense of others. Meles and company are doing this because that is the only way they can stay in power. TPLF is not a mass based organization. In today’s Ethiopia they have no single interest group they can count on. Their main constituents are the foreigners.

On planet Earth the most vital resource is food. We all get sidetracked by this talk of oil, gold and other rare natural resources. If you think about it without food all others lose their value. Without human being the Earth will be another ball among billions in this vast wonderful universe we call home. At the moment this is the only place where life is known to exist. Without food to sustain us we will not exist. This is exactly our problem in Ethiopia. We do not have enough food to sustain us. But what happened to our food?

We are but just another victim of globalization and the new international order. The military regime, which assumed power after the ‘74 famine, was in the words of our beautiful son Teddy Afro ‘le lewte yalfeterew seltan lai seweta’ situation. The world was polarized between the West and the East and the Derg gravitated towards the Soviet Union. It was a time Russia’s power and influence was ascending and the US was on a retreat mode. The Soviets poured in arms and Cuban solders to reel us into their orbit. The illiterate and cruel Derg mowed down the most experienced older generation and the most educated new generation of our country. We became an empty shell of our former self.

We borrowed heavily from the World Bank and International bankers to purchase arms to fight internal wars. We were forced to buy food since production came to a standstill due to war on all fronts. There was EPLF, TPLF, OLF, EPRP and other LF’s all raising arms against the Fascist regime. It was inevitable. The center collapsed. The beginning of the dilution of our sovereignty was underway.

The high debt, the complete collapse of the economy and the general hopelessness permeating the nation opened the door for outside powers to rearrange society in their own interest. The TPLF that rode into Addis was indebted to foreigners more than the Ethiopian people. The World Bank, IMF and International bankers were ready with all the necessary programs and ‘economic therapy’ for the new government to sign. The clique that did not have the necessary tools or capacity to grasp the new situation was happy to oblige.
This is what Michel Chossudovsky in a wonderful research paper wrote:

‘In Ethiopia, a transitional government came into power in 1991 in the wake of a protracted and destructive civil war. After the pro-Soviet Derge regime of Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam was unseated, a multi-donor financed Emergency Recovery and Reconstruction Project (ERRP) was hastily put in place to deal with an external debt of close to 9 billion dollars that had accumulated during the Mengistu government. Ethiopia’s outstanding debts with the Paris Club of official creditors were rescheduled in exchange for far-reaching macro-economic reforms. Upheld by US foreign policy, the usual doses of bitter IMF economic medicine were prescribed. Caught in the straightjacket of debt and structural adjustment, the new Transitional Government of Ethiopia (TGE), led by the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) – largely formed from the Tigrean People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) – had committed itself to far-reaching “free market reforms”, despite its leaders’ Marxist leanings. Washington soon tagged Ethiopia alongside Uganda as Africa’s post Cold War free market showpiece.’

The IMF and the World Bank are good at this game. They have managed to penetrate the economies of Eastern Europe and Third world countries at will. They have an age proven way of operation which no country have been able to say no to. If they were a criminal organization you can say they have a certain ‘modi operandi’ known to law enforcement. In a very simplistic way all their victims have the following in common.

• Preferably a dictatorship, a military junta or corrupt crony capitalist state.
• A seemingly growing economy.
• Local currency pegged to the dollar.
• Rampant speculation in real estate and currency trading.
• Financial institutions under heavy debt to trans national banks.
When these conditions are met the game is set. The crisis is invented. The foreign banks call the short-term loan in. The currency speculators start hitting the foreign reserve. The desperate government calls in the IMF. They are there the next day with new terms and conditions. It has happened to the following countries.
• Mexico 1994 known as the ‘Mexican Peso Crisis’ The peso fell by 35 percent against the dollar in three days. IMF approved 48billion loan to prop up the peso.
• Thailand November 1997. Bail out 3.9 billion.
• Korea December 1997. Bailout 55 billion.
• Indonesia. 1998. Bailout 43 billion
• Brazil. December 1998. Bailout 30 billion.

The G7 countries banks were protected form the effects of giving excessive loans to a poor and corrupt creditor while the those countries economy was saddled with further debt

Compared to us all these are giants. What do they want from us?

What we got today is as important as what we could be tomorrow. The trans nationals are the new colonialists. Control comes in many forms. A weak corrupt regime is a fertile ground for their operation. When they show up during a certain point in the crisis like the collapse of the Mengistu dictatorship they come with what they call ‘a policy framework paper’ (PFP) The new game plan is trade liberalization, wage freeze, open markets, hasty privatization and new labor laws among a host of changes to make it easy for the Banks and Agro-businesses to operate freely.

We know what happened in Ethiopia. State assets were sold out (transferred) to TPLF organized companies. Land that was illegally confiscated by the Derg was reconfisiscated by the new masters. New labor unions were organized for all trade and professional groups. Teachers and social workers were let go. Price subsidies to farmers was stopped. Price control was lifted. The ‘Kelel’ system was set up in the name of federalism but a Bantustan in nature. Dagmawi writes ‘the ethnic nationalism represented by Kuma Demeksa and other servile ethnic politicians is referred to as “Castrated Nationalism”. The organization of society into ethnic nations and its top down control via castrated ethnic parties was the governing strategy in the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia.’ Look at both of them now. So much for ‘castrated nationalism’ as a tool for self-determination.

The most important mission of neo colonialism is the control of the food system. We are number one victims of this practice. Giant Agro-business took control of our farm-based economy. It was not a physical take over. That is old fashioned. They gave grants and loan subsidies to the regime, which in turn used the capital to consolidate its hold on the peasant farmer. Seed and fertilizer came under government monopoly that in turn was controlled by trans national agro business conglomerates. According to Chossudovsky ‘Pioneer Hi-Bred positioned itself in seed distribution and marketing, Cargill Inc established itself in the markets for grain and coffee through its subsidiary Ethiopian Commodities’. This symbiotic relationship serves the two parties at the expense of the third, the peasant farmer. Three important names in this are Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) and Cargill Inc. Our wheat, barley; maize, teff, sorghum and other Ethiopian seed variety have become genetically mapped and patented properties of the agri businesses. What this means is our farmers cannot save and plant or exchange the seeds without breaking the law.

The poor Ethiopian farmer is victimized from many sides. He does not own the land. He cannot raise capital. His seed has been confiscated from him. Fertilizer is out of his reach. Since the ’84 hunger more than 8 million have been locked in what is called a ‘famine zone’. There is no way out. The current ‘give away’ of land to Sudan pales in comparison to the outright robbery of our unique seed supply. We will never get it back. We can reclaim what Sudan is trying to take but the prospect of going against treaties enshrined in their World Trade Organization (WTO), Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) agreements and other neo colonialist tools is very remote.

It is not good to bite the hand that feeds you, but circumstances have to be taken into consideration. The IMF, World Bank and the trans national corporations make the existence of the corrupt mafia regime possible. The policy they formulate to benefit them selves in turn causes untold misery and pain to our people. The ruling elite they prop up to facilitate their control is destroying our identity and our home. Their callous policy towards us is the cause of famine. Are we supposed to thank them for dumping on us genetically engineered grain that is banned in Western Europe? Is it true that we are being used to ‘launder dirty grain’ in the name of aid? Why is genetically manipulated seed given out with ‘food aid’? Does this cause a further deterioration of Ethiopia’s genetic pool of indigenous seeds?

What is bizarre about the current famine is that the International Organizations and NGO’s are appealing for help while the Ethiopian government is busy denying the extent of the problem. They seem to be angry by the 8 to 12 million figure being quoted by the media. The Prime Mister himself is upset about the conspiracy by the western media to tarnish his image. Instead of ‘one hungry citizen is one too many’ the regime is setting the record straight by claiming the number should not be no more may be 75,000 children dying. I guess that is an acceptable number to perish. As far as you and I are concerned, it comes down to the same old question. What are you going to do about it?

I will leave you with a timely quotation from Indonesia in the aftermath of their ‘crisis’ in 19998.

“”It is paradoxical that the IMF is willing to dictate terms to Suharto when it comes to managing the economy but not when it comes to fundamental economic rights,” an Indonesian human rights worker and researcher using the pseudonym ‘Aryati’ told a Congressional committee …… While it is apparently acceptable to the IMF that political power is monopolised, it absolutely insists that the debt be democratically distributed,”

Resources used in the preparation of this article.

[1] Sowing the Seeds of Famine in Ethiopia, by Michel Chossudovsky
[2] David Harvey, A Brief History of Neoliberalism
[3] Dagmawi
[4] Anuradha Mittal. Anuradha Mittal is the Co-Director of the Institute for Food and Development Policy, also known as Food First, in Oakland, California.
[5] Vandana Shiva – The threat to third world farmers.
[6] IMF – Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico, Thailand and Korea
[7] Sang Mok Ahn – The IMF Korea Bailout – A Korean Nationalist’s View

  1. want to help
    | #1

    I say stop crying and do something about it. Next time you think you need a graduation party, a brithday, an engagement party even a wedding make it a fundraising. Donate to those going hungry. Please, if you can find a list of organizations that are working in Ethiopia non religious list.

  2. Aselefu
    | #2

    I second that emotion. Send some money to your family and let them donate it to a local NGO. Adapt a kid and make a change. it is a shame that Foriegners are doing more to help than ethiopians.

  3. Dila
    | #3

    just cry that is all you know better till you come to this planet. cry and cry !!!

    what about try to change you surrounding
    like plant a tree ,maybe or some ting like that


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