THE PRIME MINSTER LIED AND IT IS DARFUR-STYLE SCORCHED-EARTH LAND GRAB – By Desta Woldemariam
The relationship between the dynamics within states in the Horn of Africa (Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Djibouti, and Somalia) and the distribution of power among them is constantly changing.
The Global, Regional and Sub-Regional situations and dynamics temporarily strengthen one or two states in the Horn, while it exposes and exacerbates their failing on many occasions. The states in the Horn are getting too weak and poorly governed to address challenges within their borders and cannot prevent then from spilling out and destabilizing all surrounding states. (more…)
The relationship between the dynamics within states in the Horn of Africa (Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Djibouti, and Somalia) and the distribution of power among them is constantly changing.
The Global, Regional and Sub-Regional situations and dynamics temporarily strengthen one or two states in the Horn, while it exposes and exacerbates their failing on many occasions. The states in the Horn are getting too weak and poorly governed to address challenges within their borders and cannot prevent then from spilling out and destabilizing all surrounding states.
In this strategic environment, it is vital to Ethiopia’s national security, stability and prosperity that the Ethiopian Government be willing and able to meet the full range of its sovereign responsibilities, both beyond our border and within it. Therefore, it is high time that the current government of Ethiopia, particularly those on the apex of power understand that Ethiopia’s national interest and its territorial integrity, as well as borders cannot be political bargaining chips to stay in power or quell opposition movements.
The whole sane world and all rational people recognize that freedom and democracy are the only ideas that can, over time, lead to just and lasting stability in Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti and Somalia. Short of that, and with the total failure in the Ethiopian body politic, ceding our territory to Sudan through political indebtedness and to building personal friendship and alliance between President Omar Hassan al- Bashir and Prime Minister Meles Zenawi with the primary objective of staying in power will not work. It will ignite a conflict exactly similar with that of Eritrea if not worse.
When villages are burned, people are killed and imprisoned and women are abducted creating ethnic facts on the ground to justify pushing the Sudanese border to Western Ethiopia and increasing Sudanese control of Ethiopia territory; the shameful denial of our government and people in power is beyond belief and undignified. Our Prime Minster’s total commitment and support to the Sudanese officials and his conviction to give our territory has inspired and increased the common mistrust and total lack of confidence the overwhelming majority of the Ethiopian people have in him. The ethnic fact that was created by TPLF, while appalling, is internal for Ethiopians that could and will be mitigated with rational and democratic dialogue in the future. However, the ethnic fact that is being created by the Jihadists from Sudan is totally unacceptable.
It is an open fact that Sudan mobilized tanks and amassed soldiers for quite sometimes to take this action. Just like the Eritrean invasion, it is a fact that the Ethiopian Government was ignoring the developments an agreeing to give Ethiopian land. It is also a fact that from the North comes the influence of the Arab World. To the West is an equally Christian and Moslem Ethiopia that has ties to the Western World, but its population fiercely independent against western ambitions, and also not falling to the growing sphere of influence of radical Islam and Arab nationalism. The Ethiopian people have nothing against the Arab world and have always been keen to have friendly economic and political relations. The political and economic interest of Ethiopia and the reality dictates that Ethiopia has a longer and deeper political and economic relations with the Arab world based on mutual respect and international law. However, near the Ethio-Sudanese border the two worlds collide (the African and Arab) and the two undemocratic and repressive governments manipulate the interest of the two worlds, which compete for territory and influence inch by inch, for their sole objective of staying in power at any cost. For the two governments politics is a zero sum game.
President Omar Hassan al-Beshir play tricks just like President Jaffar el Numeri did to the previous two Ethiopian governments. President Bashit said “yes, yes” to all protocols and actions and asked for territorial concession now; when Prime Minster Meles is in the most venerable of times. He knows Meles needs his support to stay in power and check opposition movements around the border areas. Bashir knows that the time is ripe since the Prime Minister’s is extremely unpopular and vulnerable due to his rigging of the 2005 election; the Somali invasion; the growing famine and food crisis; the continued pressure from Eritrea; skyrocketing oil and food prices, double digit inflation; growing poverty washing away the acclaimed growth.
The Prime Minster is so vulnerable and he cannot even look at the medium term of the critical question all are asking, i.e. whether Sudan will remain a single country or not, and how disintegration of the Sudan could be averted. Unlike the Sudanese government which is a lead destabilizer in the sub-region (look at their intervention and support for splinter groups in Uganda, Chad) and the disintegration of Ethiopia through its support to TPLF, ELF, EPLF; the Ethiopian people do not support the dismemberment of Sudan and the suffering of the brotherly Sudanese people. However with the continued interventionist and aggressive policy of the Sudanese government the “chicken has come home to roost” and the Ethiopian Prime Minister does not even have the elementary vision to see it coming? He is blinded by his narrow and ridicules politics of ethnic arithmetic and dependency on Sudanese oil, his political vision of creating a Great Tigray Republic that will incorporate highland Eritrea connected with infrastructural and commercial relations with Northern Sudan while ceding Northern Eritrea to the Sudan. The whole exercise of connecting Northern Sudan with the planned and actual roads and rail way construction, electric power lines, the joint commercial agriculture and the intense trade relations that is encouraged are clear examples. One thing the Prime Minster does not understand is the core Ethiopianess of the people of Tigray and their determination not to dilute their proud Ethiopian history. Tigray is one of the core jewels of Ethiopian history. The linguistic, cultural, religious, historical, geographical, blood ties of the people of Tigray with the rest of Ethiopia cannot be diluted with half backed confused value and vision that makes a “U” turn at every corner from Albanian type socialism to Stalinism, then revolutionary democracy to ethnic demagogy and then to born again capitalist to promote party parastatals at the expense of the private sector.
On the Sudanese side with the growing pressure of desertification, the self proclaimed “Arab’ nomads need greener pastures more than ever to graze and water their cattle. The Sudanese are also pushing South and West by the pressure of commercial farming through external investment from some gulf states. They are looking for fertile soil that is not affected by saline soil (salination) like the Gazira which requires a lot of rehabilitation. As a result of this fertile lands bordering Ethiopia and leased out to mechanized farming schemes to which our Prime Minister and his circle are a beneficiaries. Gulf States with huge surplus of petro dollar , like Quatar are investing heavily to make Sudan the bread basket of the Arab World. If done fairly and transparently a visionary government on the Ethiopian side would attempt to be beneficiary based on the primacy of Ethiopian national interest. Unfortunately in the middle of all these the Ethiopian Prime Minster is publicly and officially conceding our territory to the Sudan as he has done to Eritrea and publicly lie about it in such an appalling manner. The public statement and open lie that said” Bademe has been given to Ethiopia after the International Court of Justice has made its ruling” and the shameful way the government try to cover it up is an obvious fact and fresh in our mind.
In his concession speech in Parliament what the Ethiopian Prime Minister has done tantamount to endorsing Sudanese self proclaimed “Arab” militias and the Sudanese army who carried out scorched-earth tactics and grabbed our land, killed and imprisoned our people. We all recall that in late 1980s, when Bashir was the general in charge of Abyei, the so called “Arab” militia chased the Dinka off their land. Just last year, Bashir called on the militias to open their camps and gather the Mujahedeen and grab southern land as publicly stated by, none other than Salya Kiir, the President of Southern Sudan. The same thing is happening to us few months after Bashir and Meles danced on us at the Millennium celebration in Addis Sheraton. The pictures were telling. It shows the level of comfort our Prime minister has when he is with Bashir, compared to the level of his discomfort when he is among the Ethiopian people. The number of soldiers lining up in Bole Road to protect him looks like we are in a state of war. Only tyrants and ruthless dictators need that level of protection from their people. The similarities are no coincidence. It shows a pattern in the behavior of the two leaders and their governments. The way our Prime Minster is indebted to Bashir to stay in power. This dependency started from the day the former Chief of the Sudanese Security (later Sudanese envoy to the UN) piloted a Sudanese plain bringing Mr. Meles to Addis to take power flanked by a couple of other foreign agents. We have to connect the dots and we can see the pattern of dependency and compromise of our national interest. This pattern shows the intent of the two leaders. To hold to power and resources at any cost marginalizing the majority and continued destabilization.
Our Prime Minister is a consistent and passionate advocated of Sudan and Eritrea at the expense of the country he is leading. For that he is deeply resented and disliked by Ethiopians of all political and religious strips. The kind of passion and emotional justification for Sudanese cause is in stark comparison to his unemotional and cold blooded response about the recent famine and starvation of the people in his recent interview to the BBC. He is even deeply resented in his own party and those who dared to question him have paid dearly through his Machiavellian interreges. Esseye Abraha and his group that were ousted from the TPLF are living examples. The only power base he is left with is the breast of the US he is suckles and his brutal military officers.
The support from the US is a result of balancing myriad factors in US national interest and relations with Ethiopia. America will not accept that its national interest and its universal ideals be at odds for a long time like it is in its relations with Ethiopia. The US strongly believes that its strong success in relations with countries like Ethiopia lies in its ideals: freedom, human rights, open market, democracy, and the rule of law. The support Meles gets from the US in the temporary arrangement that he supports US interest in the region he gets supported temporarily for strategic stability reasons. The US has no permanent enemies and for that matter even permanent friends that do not subscribe to its ideals. It recognizes the need to reform its relationship with the Ethiopian government. A strategic realignment will soon unfold. The US strongly recognizes countries in transition to democracy in Africa and Meleses government is not one of them. Ghana, Liberia, Mali and Mozambique are the ones recognized as in transition to democracy. They know Ethiopia is not near it. The US will not wait for the explosion to the surface long-suppressed grievances of the Ethiopian people challenging a fragile government and a brutal dictator. It recognizes the importance of inclusive political bargain that could prevent Ethiopia from sliding into ethnic cleansing and lay a broader foundation for potential reconciliation. America leaders strongly believe that democratic development is not only an effective path to wealth and power; it is also the best way to ensure that these benefits are shared across entire societies, without exclusion, repression or organized violence by the state. They know how armed groups turned political parties create havoc in many countries and use power without responsibility. They also recognize that democratic development is always possible but never fast or easy. We should work to build our partnership and help them work with courageous leaders, citizens and non state groups whose commitment to democracy, nonviolent and rule of law. They have now realized that the best organized political parties are violent armed groups who have captured political power at a barrel of a gun. They are active in subverting the democratic process and are inherently undemocratic.
The people themselves have their interest at heart and are fighting back. It is their life, it is their future. The violence in Sudanese border with Gondar (Amhara kilel as they call it) began with the kind of small skirmish that had been occurring for months and the Sudanese militia and soldiers got into the fighting. The soldiers took over the land. A different reality and ethnic fact that favored Khartoum was created. Our Prime Minister is blaming his own people. Ethiopian soldiers who have instructions not to fight the Sudanese were fuming. Some un-informally joined the fighting and backed the people. Our Prime Minster just like Bademe did not understand he is playing with fire. Disregarding Ethiopian Nationalism is like playing with fire. Our Prime Minster has never recovered from the backlash of his draconian decisions of making Ethiopia a land locked country, invading Somalia, and calling our national flag a piece of clothe (engna ke cehrku min alen) and saying what some one in Welaita has to do with the Obelisk in Aksum. Never learns from his mistakes; a sad state of mind for a person claiming to be a national leader even though he has never been elected as a Prime Minster except manipulating party structures to be appointed as one. He knows it that he cannot stand a chance through democratic process except the Machiavellian way of coming to power.
It is high time for the Prime Minster to overcome the repeated impulse to justify himself and avoiding responsibility for his actions which turns out to be harmful and immoral, or sometimes stupid. His impulsive behavior and decisions have affected millions of lives. The consequences of his mistakes are tragic and a national canvas. Most of us find it difficult and impossible to believe he keeps on doing it. The stakes are much higher, it is destroying us emotionally, economically, politically and morally. The Prime Minster is the most visible and tragic example of a person who does not change his view or course when directly confronted with proof that he is wrong. The people around him are terrified to tell him. Throughout the last 20 years Meles Zenaawi, was the epitome of a man for whom even irrefutable evidence could not pierce his mental armor of self-justification.
Self-justification added to laying and making excuses and creating fanciful stories to stay in power has reached a level beyond comprehension. The combination is dangerous. Self-justification is reason that everyone can see a hypocrite in action except the hypocrite. In Ethiopian current situation between the conscious and continued lies by our leaders and unconscious self-justification that is causing havoc to our national interest; there comes a growing and fascinating grey area of fabricating memory and pseudo facts patrolled by unreliable, self serving revisionists’ historians and pseudo academics. The memory the people in power are often pruned and shaped by an ego-enhancing bias that blurs the edges of past events, softens culpability, and distorts what really happened. Over time as the self-serving distortions of memory kicked in, the people in power distorted past events and come to believe their own lies, little by little reached a point of totally denying Ethiopian history and its territorial demarcation. They even forget that Ethiopia was discussing border demarcation with their colonial masters before they were established as nations and now we are told they are wise people who do know what they do as opposed to us.
Our Prime Minster and his followers have a fantastic capacity to persuade themselves that the “truth” which was convenient for the present political objective is the “truth” and anything that conflict with it is the prevarication of enemies like “timkehetegnoch” Wake up Mr. Meles! It is our land and Sudan is out for land grab. As a ruthless dictator and an outlaw who robbed banks, had forged passports, conducted violent acts and murdered and jailed in the name of law and order after coming to power, you have been living with yourself through self-justification. Your mindless self justification has drawn our nation into deeper disaster. It blocked your ability to even see your errors, let alone correct them. It prolonged and widened rifts in our nation. It has permitted you and your followers to avoid responsibilities for your actions.
In life none of us can live without making blunders. But we do have the ability to say ‘this is not working out here. This is not making sense”. To err is human, but humans then have choices between covering up or facing up. The choice we make is crucial to what we do next. We should learn from our mistakes. However, no one can learn unless
he or she first admits mistakes were made. Mr. Melese’s hard wired psychological mechanism that creates self-justification, scientifically referred as cognitive dissonance, exacerbates his prejudice, tribal affiliation, and corruption, distorted his memory, turned him to arrogance, leads him to create and perpetuate injustice and kept on generating feuds and rifts.
The engine that drives his self-justification, the energy that produces the need to justify his action and decisions – especially the wrong ones- is an unpleasant feeling that scientists call “cognitive dissonance”. It is a state of tension that occurs whenever a person holds two ideas, attitudes, beliefs and opinions that are psychologically inconsistent. It brings in self flattering ideas, which Mr. Meles has plenty of.
Along with what has been mentioned above, Neuroscientists have recently shown that biases in thinking are built into the very way the brain processes information. For people like Mr. Meles the reasoning area his brain virtually shuts down when confronted with dissonant information particularly regarding Ethiopian National Interest and Ethiopianism. The emotion circuit of his brain lit up happily when consonance is restored particularly if the subject is tearing apart our national interest. These mechanisms I think provide a neurological basis for the general observation that once Mr. Meles mind is made up it is hard to change them with facts. This needs treatment.
I will end my article with one fascinating example. Those of you who live in the US can attest that when you enter the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles, you find yourself in a room on interactive exhibits designed to identify the people others commonly do not tolerate. The familiar targets are blacks, women, gays and the disabled. For Mr. Meles the primary thing he cannot tolerate is Ethiopia and Ethiopianess. I rest my case.