Zenawi Lies Again: “No famine on our watch – emergencies, but no famines” – TIME

August 7th, 2008 Print Print Email Email

Hunger is a political issue in Ethiopia. Famine helped bring down the regime of Emperor Haile Selassie I in 1974 and the 1984-5 famine, in which one million people died, fatally undermined the Derg regime of Haile Miriam Mengistu, who was eventually overthrown in 1991. Prime Minister Meles Zenawi was leader of the rebel movement that toppled Mengistu. He spoke to TIME’s Africa bureau chief Alex Perry about Ethiopia’s latest food emergency and the value of aid at his offices in Addis Ababa. (more…)

Hunger is a political issue in Ethiopia. Famine helped bring down the regime of Emperor Haile Selassie I in 1974 and the 1984-5 famine, in which one million people died, fatally undermined the Derg regime of Haile Miriam Mengistu, who was eventually overthrown in 1991. Prime Minister Meles Zenawi was leader of the rebel movement that toppled Mengistu. He spoke to TIME’s Africa bureau chief Alex Perry about Ethiopia’s latest food emergency and the value of aid at his offices in Addis Ababa.

TIME: There has been some dispute over how big this emergency is. What is your assessment?
Meles: We have pockets of severe malnutrition in some districts in the south and an emergency situation in the Somali region. It’s not small to those who are suffering, but it is a manageable problem.

Why the dispute with Unicef [which announced 6 million people at risk and 125,000 children with severe acute malnutrition, a figure it revised to 4.6 million and 75,000 after the government protested] over the scale of the problem?
Because their assessment was patently false. I do not think there was ill intention on their part. But every country is competing for emergency resources, and the more gruesome the picture [you present], the better chance you have of receiving a large share of those resources.

What’s your view of emergency aid?
It’s a mixed bag. When you have an emergency, there is the urge to do whatever it takes to see people get assistance. [But that can mean]the name of the game is [to] include a bit of hyperbole, and that can convey the message that the situation is hopeless when in fact it is not, and that might do some lasting damage, given the fact that all investors take their information and make their assessments on the basis of the 24-hour news cycle. Famine has wreaked havoc in Ethiopia for so long , it would be stupid not to be sensitive to the risk of such things occurring. But there has not been a famine on our watch – emergencies, but no famines.

SF Switzerland just pulled out of the Somali region, saying the [Ethiopian] security services there [who are fighting an ethnic Somali insurgency] were placing too many restrictions on it. Are you placing security and politics above humanitarian concerns in that area?
That’s not true. Most of the humanitarian agencies are operating there. Only those who find it difficult to distinguish between political interference and humanitarian assistance are restricted. I can give my assurance that the Ogaden is receiving the same level of care as other affected parts of the country.

Do you think donors and receiving governments strike the right balance between food aid and development aid?
Some humanitarian assistance is clearly required and we very much welcome it. But clearly a large percentage of this goes through all sorts of NGOs, and I am not sure whether the money is being spent in a manner that adequately promotes development. There are excellent NGOs, good ones, mediocre ones and good for nothing ones. [Then again], development is not going to happen on the basis of external assistance. [A lack of foreign assistance] does not mean that development has to be abandoned.

What about the idea that assistance undermines enterprise and self-reliance?
An expression of human solidarity between the rich and the poor should not automatically be demeaning to the beneficiaries. There has been a transformation of Western thinking [on that score]. [Most Western countries] no longer believe that aid implies the unfortunate are in that position because they are inadequate, that Africans have brought this on themselves – although that has not been completely eliminated. Some people think African states cannot be trusted with the cookie jar. But there are absolutely good NGOs who have this feeling of human solidarity and who also recognize that their work can only be supplementary to the government.


What efforts are you making to reform agriculture?

It’s primarily focused on the commercialization of small scale farms so that they supply the market rather than just the farmers’ own consumption: improving seed varieties, irrigation, the whole gamut of agrarian reform and transformation, and increasing private investment in more large scale operations. We promote agriculturally-led industrialization. Farmers grow crops like coffee and sesame, and that strategy is reflected in our exports, which have gone up 25% for each of the last five years. Incomes in rural areas have improved very dramatically; we have double digit agricultural growth. That’s still not enough to get us out of the hole, however. So we have a safety net program, which is very similar to the social welfare programs in the US. We cannot afford it ourselves as yet, and it is not funded by our own resources, but I am not particularly ashamed or worried about that. I suspect we will always have pockets of hunger. The big question is whether we have enough in our own economy to be able to finance the safety net program. We have not reached that stage yet.

  1. Mammo
    | #1

    “We cannot afford it ourselves as yet, and it is not funded by our own resources, but I am not particularly ashamed or worried about that. I suspect we will always have pockets of hunger. The big question is whether we have enough in our own economy to be able to finance the safety net program. We have not reached that stage yet.”

    This man is there as a bystander when it comes to development and assisting our people get through hard times and as an active participant when it comes to “mass murdering” our people.

    If Ethiopians seek to see a free and prosperous Ethiopia, we shall destroy this man along with his cronies!! Period!

  2. meka
    | #2

    I agree with Zenawi statment “No famine on our watch – emergencies, but no famines” In his view as long as Tigray born Woyane Mafia family is fed 24/7 they dont really care about the rest if Ethiopian citizens

    Woyane has one goal to destroy ETHIOPIAWINET

    Letsy Destroy Woyane before they destory our Motherland

  3. | #3

    This home boy Meles zenawi has lost insight or has strong superego..I think EPRDFs are treating themselves rather than treating the root problems..Where have you been while 75,000 children went from normal nutrition to mild malnutrtion then to moderate malnutirtion then to sever form of malnutrtion whereby children are on the verge of death…You detected the problem at 11 hours and now you telling us that the problem is managable…SHAME
    How severe Hunger is severe to you my dear…
    As a citizen we have to find a means to resolve
    our problem…How can we tackle such type of humanitarian problems apolitically….You see EPRDFs first priority is to maintain the strength of the party. that is it…The other problems are the first priority from the bottom like this HUNGER…PORT….etc.
    My worry is not their superego rather their prevention of the hunger victims getting help from the inside and outside world …SHAME.
    People i am so confused which matter is political and which one is apolitical.
    May God help EPRDF to gain its insight..

  4. Balgeru
    | #4

    The response of this vagabond and stupid leader is full of garbage. He tried to cover up the famine in ethiopia which extends up to the capital city the first time

  5. Ankachew
    | #5

    I am an Amara and a hate Meles Zenawe.

  6. guma
    | #6

    you bunch of amara who is againest our dear pm.meles zenawi. go and die in the midle of no where. yederg buchula hulu. beeng in america dident mean you know poletics. you ppl are full of hate in your malaria maind. so who cares what you said. you ppl are blaindly againest tigraian. you love power you love dominetion you love your black ass in the power & to see your poor ppl dowen. we know you very well. you ppl are so ignorant you ppl are back word you do not know the meaning of dimocracy. beeng againest meles you think you know more kkkk no no you ppl are wrong as usual. our governement ahead forward to divolopement and freedom. but you jelous ppl are blaind to see the good worck of our brave governement. what you see in your face is black out. coz you ppl are hopeles. you ppl have no respeact for no body. you are sick of power. but you will be so sick and then dead to hell. thats your fainal destinetion. but we real ethiopians we are good with our governement. no mater what mesteak they made.
    even the civlaized worleds leaders made a mesteak so what. but you ppl you love to blame game. ohhhh lord go and change your life. that will be better for your slfe. other ways any body coz he/she liveng in the west doesnt mean you ppl are poletitanes kkk shame on you guys. long live our governement and its great ppl of real ethiopians.

  7. | #7

    Guma…Ante Goma Rase…First edit your message
    …then think again and agian before you post it…I do not realy understand what you are saying. Are you telling us that all who post message in this box are diaspora…Your DEDEBENET starts from here…kkkkkkkk….
    I think all EPRDFS are weyanzied by genetic engenering…when you are weyanized(who ever you are ..Amhara..Tegre..Oromo..or Gurage..)You start thinking like weyane..this what we call weyanization…kkkkkk…Then you stop thinking logically , become crule and write garbage like what you did , fight for Tegre hate diaspora, hate opposition, deny facts, hate scolars..etc etc..kkkk…..

    Stop mass weyanization.Free Teddy Afro.

  8. dinka
    | #8

    Eliminating Meles milassam and hodam is the only solution IMF only sees that he plays ball with them they do not care how he uses the loan and for what purpose, if this idiot keeps going the way he does there won’t be tomorrow for many Ethiopians we aready are witnessing him selling Ethiopia to Arabs.

  9. nuni
    | #9

    Guma,
    Ante gumare, no one is jealous of a leader that’s causing hunger,death,torture, land locking,over population, deforestation, inflation,tribalism,mass arrest, corruption, giving land to every one but Ethiopians, etc..etc… may be only a gumare like you will be jealous of such a monster.

  10. surprize
    | #10

    I am really really surprized.
    Guma, are you a human being? Helena yemibal neger gin yinorh yion?
    Imagine, the world is talking, writing and donating for the about 10 million ethiopian who are on the vergue of dieing with hunger.

    ke 80 million hizib 10 millionu eyeterabe, rehab yelem eyale yemiwashewn derek leba medegef asgerami new.

    Min alebet zim bitilu hodam weyanewech.
    sewe belawech nachuh ye Ethiopia amlak zim yale bimeslachuhim yejachuhin endemisetachuh alteraterm.

    D

  11. sameul
    | #11

    VIDEO: Zenawi’s Tigray-built Empire thrives while more Ethiopians starve

    check this out
    http://www.eastafro.com/Post/2008/08/10/video-zenawi%e2%80%99s-tigray-empire-thrives-while-more-ethiopians-starve/

  12. Surma
    | #12

    Guma, really surprised when I read your posting? Where are you living now? I don’t think you are in Ethiopia right now, where so many people are ready to die from hunger, yet you claim the opposite. Shame on you! Please don’t deny reality for the seck of filling your BIG stomach. You said that leaders of civilized world makes mistakes, that is right. Are you talking about Innocent mistakes. Are you telling us Meles is doing innocent mistakes when he gave our land to Sudan, lied the food insecurity in the country, made 80 million people port less,ended the Eth-Eritrea war to our disadvantage? Please wake up Guma. If you are denying the fact intentionally, shame on you! This isn’t true Ethiopiawinet. Thanks Surma

  13. adugna
    | #13

    MELES ZENAWI COULD CARE LESS IF THE HUNGRY ETHIOPIANS BE HALF OF THE POPULATION THIS CRIMINAL LEADER EVEN MIGHT BE HAPPY.WHAT MATTERS MELES AND HIS CORRUPT CRIMINAL WEYANE IS HOW TO STAY IN POWER AND KILL MORE ETHIOPANS EXCLUDING TIGRAYANS.IF ANYONE IN HIS HONEST THINKING THINKS WEYANE CARES ABOUT ANY STARVING AMHARA,OROMO,URAGE AND OTHER ETHNIC GROUPS OF ETHIOPIA IS DAYDREAMING THE GOVERNMENT WHO SLAUGHTERS HIS OWN POPULATION BY BULLETS COULD CARELESS IF FAMINE KILLS MILLIONS.

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