Meles’ Trickery and Political Coercion inside the Kangaroo Parliament

November 27th, 2006 Print Print Email Email

Meles Ugly Meles was in the Ethiopian Parliament on November 23, 2006 to answer five questions reportedly posed by parliamentarians, but most probably cooked up by himself, and those questions related to:

     -The religious conflict in Kaffa and Illubabor
     -The ever rising cost of living
     -The need of free and fair elections for legitimacy and the need to use professional competence to recruit Ethiopians for the Civil Service,
     -The need for a balanced Anti-corruption Commission, and
     -The problem with Somalia’s Islamic Courts and Meles’s own decision to invade Somalia without any knowledge of Meles’s democratic parliament which had Meles’s decision presented to it for the usual rubber-stamping.

Let us say a few words on how Meles answered those questions, and what the answer lacked in the process. We will take up his answers one by one.

The Recent Religious Conflict

Meles attributed this to extremists, to make it mere attractive to the USA, and he also told us that the massacres occurred during the Meskel celebrations. The prime Minister noted that churches were burnt down, several people, mostly Christians, were killed, Christians converted to Islam by force and Ethiopian Orthodox churches converted to mosques. The government was apparently watching while the so-called extremists committed such atrocities. However, it is not clear why Meles blames extremists of both religious groups (Christians and Moslems)
     -when all that horror took place because of, during and after, Meskel
     -churches were burnt down
     -churches were converted to mosques
     -Christians were forcefully converted to Islam
Clearly, the events tell who was under attack, but I would still wonder if this was not one more divide-and-rule tactic by Meles to weaken Kinijit which had, and continues to have, strong support from both Moslems and Christians of all ethnic groups. Ethiopia has had the blessing of harmony and peace among all faiths for the past 1500 years. Who started this one ?

Readers may recall that there was such an effort by EPRDF to create division among Moslems and Christians during the political campaigns in 2005 when EPRDF was completely vanquished in the political debates in Africa Hall by Kinijit.

The ever spiraling cost of Living

Meles answered the concern about the ever rising cost of living over the past few months by attributing the development to :
     -Framers’ increasing resort to the production of cash crops
     -Hoarding by traders, and
     -An inefficient trading mechanism

He repeatedly attempted to tell us that the mismatch between demand and supply will eventually be corrected in his brand of a market-oriented system where the business monopolies of the ruling party dominate the market and where senior government officials chair various boards of management ( e.g. Seyoum Mesfin chairs those for Mesobe, the TPLF factory, and Muger which is public owned, successfully raising the price of cement by some 200% in a few weeks).

Meles said nothing about the never declining price of fuel in Ethiopia even when crude oil prices have come down in recent weeks, thereby forcing prices to come down all over the world except in Ethiopia where market forces exist only in name. Indeed, today, prices for fuel like gasoline and gas for cars are significantly higher in Ethiopia which gets its fuel from sources only a few kilometers from our borders while prices of the same in the US and Europe are much lower though they both obtain their fuel from thousands of miles away.

The Prime Minister also told us how traditionally maize growers had shifted to coffee farming and how that has resulted in the rise in maize prices. He did not, however, mention the exports of maize or why such traditional food crops like teff now have prices that have gone up by more than 75% over the past few weeks alone, or about the on-going exports to Eritrea, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Djibouti and to other distant lands.

The Prime Minister has also failed to make any mention of the fictitious phenomenal growth of agriculture that is often claimed on Ethiopian Radio and Ethiopian Television. Apparently, all that television claim was sheer propaganda since a phenomenal growth in agriculture, including one claimed in traditional staple food crops, cannot disappear overnight during Meles’s question-and-answer sessions in Parliament.

In a previous speech, the Prime Minister had tried to tell us that a rise in the cost of living is always associated with economic development, and he wanted, then, to be congratulated for causing the rise in the cost of living by achieving a higher level of economic growth. In the Parliamentary Question-and-Answer session, though, he did not mention this anymore; he may have either forgotten that senseless perception, or some one with better sense may have explained its absurdity to him.

Meles had a simple-minded solution for the problems: take care of those traders that hoard food grains, and expand the public construction sector to provide incomes to unemployed laborers. Indeed, there is no evidence of any hoarding by private traders, but TPLF monopolies may well be in that sort of game since they have done that with sugar and cement without any fear of government legal action. As for the construction industry, how far can it go when cement prices are up by more that 200%? At best, it can employ only some few thousand persons of unskilled labor that have left the farms largely on account of the high cost of fertilizers by the Ruling Party’s trading monopolies. However, the largest sections of society ( civil service, workers, the aged and retired, professionals of all types, families of those in the police and military and even farmers, students and their families and small traders in various sectors) will continue to suffer under this artificial rise in the cost of living.

The truth behind the rising cost of living lies behind (i) EPRDF’s bankrupt agricultural policy in particular, its pig-headed resolve to keep land under state/ruling party control, the Ruling Party’s business monopolies, the ever rising corruption in the ruling party, the absence of transparency and accountability in Government, continued World Bank, US and EU Commission’s blind support for corruption, fraud and brutality born out of repressive political, economic and social policies which can do nothing but lead to still more poverty, war, sub-regional instability and famine, and (ii) the continued formal and informal exports of essential food products.

Legitimacy through elections

The question relating to political legitimacy sought the Prime Minister’s views on whether he saw elections as the only valid and democratic approach to access political power. The Prime Minister dismissed the question by simply saying that members of parliament were all elected, just like him, by fraud and force. As for the National Election Board, he said that all it lacked was capacity, as also falsely repeatedly echoed by the US Embassy, the EU delegation and UNDP, and he said that was being strengthened.

However, how can one strengthen a partisan Board when its very structure is rotten and hopelessly undemocratic ? That was deception once again. Capacity building makes no sense when the National Election Board is not “independent of any influence”?, as required by Art. 102 of the Constitution. However, even the US Embassy appears to be very comfortable with deception so long as it is Meles that breaks the Constitution and operates outside the rule of law.

The National Election Board (NEB) has always existed for EPRDF and EPRDF alone since all members of the Board are selected and effectively appointed by the Prime Minister, and the Chairman of NEB is also the President of the Federal Supreme Court and also President of the Constitutional Review Commission, thereby effectively denying any complaining opposition party any fair chance of being heard in any court. In actual fact, the Prime Minister was conveying the message that a smooth transfer of power through the freely expressed will of the people in free and fair elections was totally out of the question in Ethiopia. What, then, are the options for the people of Ethiopia ? Why do EU Commission and the US continue to line up behind the Dictator ? Why is the US Department of State against the passage of the US’s human rights bill for Ethiopia when all that it does is stand for human rights and rule of law ?

Meles’s perception of the Civil Service is also equally partisan. Competence will be used as a criterion for appointment, he says, provided that the individual is loyal to EPRDF. Hence, Meles again sees no purpose in an independent Civil Service, and that is also fully consistent with what he does with NEB, the universities, the government banks and corporations, the police, the national defense forces and the courts where members exist in the respective services only so long as they are loyal to EPRDF, but that is in violation of constitutional provisions like Articles 78 and Art. 87 of the Constitution. Again, what are the options for the opposition ?

The need for a balanced Anti-corruption Commission

A member of Parliament evidently had the audacity to ask that the Anti-Corruption Commission be balanced by including members of the opposition to provide a counter-weight against EPRDF’s own men/women. Meles again refused to accept that, and he argued that it would be chaotic. Indeed, when EPRDF’s cadres make up the Commission, there would be no debates or accountability within the Ruling Party or its Government since they all have to follow the Meles/party line to take any and all actions. Nothing can do better than this to promote totally unbridled corruption ! The same argument has been continuously employed since 2004 to retain the one-party nature of the National Election Board, with enthusiastic American and EU diplomatic support.

Invasion of Somalia

The Prime Minister told us that the Islamic Courts had announced a jihad against Ethiopia, and that they had already engaged in the act of overthrowing the Government and the Constitutional order by force by training and dispatching a fighting group into Ethiopia, and invading Ethiopia.
This was the first time that we ever heard of an a “clear and present danger”? and an invasion by a chaotic Somalia after the TPLF/EPRDF take-over in 1991. Surely, this cannot be true !

I do not like the whole idea of liberation fronts since they appear feudal and short-sighted, and could have done much better by working together to achieve a free, democratic and united Ethiopia that is a home for all its citizens . Hence, I am not one of those that appreciate ONLF which is reported to be operating in the Ogaden, and even that has nothing to do with Somalia. However, when Meles himself always operates outside the constitution, violates all constitutional rights of citizens, violates just about every article of the constitution, thereby denying citizens any and all civil liberties and political rights, what other options do citizens have to regain their rights ? Didn’t Americans have a “Boston Tea Party”? in the 18th. Century to defend their rights ?

If free and fair elections are made impossible by none other than Meles himself, and rule of law is unacceptable to him, what else can citizens do to ensure that they are respected as free men and women ? Surely, are not citizens then forced to resort to the gun to regain their rights as human beings ? Hasn’t Prime Minister Meles himself repeatedly told the opposition to go to the bush and use guns if they want any transfer of power from EPRDF ?

ONLF is fighting within Ethiopia, and hence Prime Minister Meles has every right to destroy ONLF, but not cook up excuses to invade Somalia since Ethiopians have no problem with the Somali people. Ethiopians have no business in Somalia !

When citizen’s rights are grossly abused, Meles himself knows that citizens are bound to take any extreme measures to regain their rights. Didn’t TPLF do that from Sudan and Somalia in the 1970s and 1980s with help from even such democratic nations as the USA ? ( Read Bob Woodward). The only sensible solution for TPLF/EPRDF is to resolve the problem through negotiation with all aggrieved opposition parties and create a democratic state that is acceptable to all groups. Meles has so far refused to negotiate, just like the Derg, and history is about to repeat itself since Meles/TPLF appears to have very poor memory.

Meles also made another blunder in this Question-and-Answer session: He was so confident to bulldoze his fabricated resolution through the Parliament that he came with a draft resolution that empowers him to invade Somalia if the Islamic Courts invade the Country. There are at least two contradictions in this.

One of them is that the whole idea of Meles’s (and Vicki’s) preaching that he has a democratic parliament breaks down since he has come up with a draft resolution which has never ever been seen by members of Parliament except himself and some of his close accomplices in the Prime Minister’s office, thereby confirming the long-standing genuine accusation that Meles is the Parliament and the talk about parliamentary democracy is all a sham.

The second contradiction is that Meles had been claiming all along that Ethiopia had been invaded, but his resolution and the explanation he gave immediately before departing from Parliament was that he wanted his government to invade Somalia as soon as the Islamic Courts invaded Ethiopia, thereby admitting that they really did not invaded our country so far. The war-empowerment cannot be to wage war within Ethiopia since that requires no empowerment from any organization, local or otherwise. The empowerment was only for invading Somalia for reasons that are beyond logic. Are EU Commission and America encouraging him to do that, as they have often done so far ?

Indeed, what does Meles have to lose since all those who may perish without purpose in the battlefield in Somalia will be sons and daughters of peasants of Ethiopia, just like those that have perished in the senseless war with Eritrea in 2000 ? He has never been held accountable for that tragedy. Lastly, I come to the opposition and its shabby show in Parliament.

The opposition in parliament continues to be used, with American and EU support, to legitimize a regime which has used fraud, the gun and blind donor support to remain in power. The opposition outside Ethiopia has messed up its priorities, has wasted valuable time, and continues to give still more opportunities to do still more damage to be effected on Ethiopia. Selfishness, short-sightedness and a lack of commitment to a free, democratic and united Ethiopia would have called for united action by all in the Diaspora.

However, Ethiopia continues to bleed as the opposition in the Diaspora continues to dreams of naked power, just like those of feudal Ethiopia of the 18th. Century. Again, like their brothers, Derg and EPRDF, the opposition appear to have very little memory and national commitment since the feudal spirit continues to reign supreme in almost all of them. What else explains the infighting and proliferation in their divisive and undemocratic programs ?

It is time to unite under a common political program for a united and democratic Ethiopia that will be a home for all Ethiopians, irrespective of gender, religion, ethnicity or political orientation: The opposition in Parliament can be stopped from being used as a legitimizing tool for a repressive regime; the Diaspora can be mobilized still further to do a still more effective job at influencing international pressure and strengthening that at home; Ethiopians at home can exert tremendous economic and political pressure if carefully organized and assisted; HR 5680 can have a powerful ally in a united Diaspora; the US Government and the EU Commission can listen more seriously and carefully if the Diaspora is united and strong. All we need to do is to learn from our several past failures, work for Ethiopia and Ethiopia alone, and not for our bellies or to satisfy personal ambitions which make no sense whatsoever if we do not have Ethiopia in the first place. The writer can be reached @tibibir_yilemlim@yahoo.com.

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