The shock of seeing an African dictator at the G20 Summit – Neguse Gamma
The invitation of the Ethiopian dictator Meles Zenawi to the G20 summit on 2 April in London takes Ethiopians by surprise and invokes anger.
With regard to the invitation, Prime Minister Gordon Brown said, “…To be effective in addressing this global crisis we have to bring in partners from across the world. For that reason I have issued invitations to the leaders of G20 countries and the Chairs of NEPAD and ASEAN, as well as other international organizations.”
Does PM Gordon Brown have a real concern for Africa’s plight? How does he view the fact that corrupted dictators who lead their nations to absolute poverty and famine, who abuse their power and steal foreign aid, come together with visionary leaders to discuss issues of global economic importance? The AU Chairman has already been invited to the summit, and why couldn’t he voice the partnership that Brown wanted? How about Jakaya Kikwete, the Tanzanian President? It was he who first expressed Africa’s determination to speak for itself at the G20 meeting. We understand that two days prior to Gordon Brown’s invitation of Meles Zenawi, Dominique Strauss-Khan, IMF managing director, suggested at the global economic crisis conference in Dar Es Salaam that Kikwete could be Africa’s voice at the upcoming G20 summit. If Brown believes only in the idea of “bringing in partners”, what was the problem of inviting the Tanzanian President or NEPAD’S executive chief? Had Robert Mugabe been the current Chairman of NEPAD, would Brown dare to invite him to the summit? We believe this would not have happened, and Brown’s concern for African partnership at the summit would have been a different story. South Africa, the only African country that takes part in the summit, was also there to demonstrate Africa’s voice. To this writer, inviting a failed state leadership to such a meeting is similar to compensating those failed bank executives with bonuses and benefits. What a puzzle!
No matter what or who they represent, tyrant leaders and authoritarian governments such as those headed by Meles need not be legitimized within the international community of nations. It is vital that human dignity should be valued first and foremost before any form of “partnership” with leaders and governments that aspire to rule by force and deceit.
Ethiopians strongly oppose and condemn the invitation. They are determined to expose the representation of the despotic leader and from all over European countries they will gather in London to express their anger and dissatisfaction on April 2, 2009 in front of the G20 Conference hall at ExCel building, near Silver Way Station.
In Ethiopia, since the TPLF/EPRDF government of Prime Minister Meles came to power, the country and its people have been under consistent crises. The government denies basic human rights of its citizens. Illegal detentions, tortures and arbitrary killings are taking place in every corner of the country – against opposition party members, their supporters and citizens that challenge the policies of the ruling party. The judiciary is not independent and there is no rule of law. Freedom of political opinion is restricted, members of the independent free press journalists suffer in prison camps without trial, and the media of the country is fully under government control. Meanwhile, tribal and ethnic conflicts are common features in different parts of the country.
Meles Zenawi is systematically destroying and dismantling Ethiopia. He has landlocked the country, given away vast territory to Sudan, and is now selling fertile and arable lands to foreign bidders such as Saudi Arabia and Djibouti in the name of investment – all without the consent of the people. His leadership lacks transparency and accountability. The ethnic-fascist authorities serving the government are totally corrupt.
The people of the country are starving, whereas Meles, his few top colleagues, as well as his party’s economic empire, are saving billions of dollars in foreign banks. They have completely laundered the nation’s banks and there is no foreign currency available to guarantee import and foreign trade.
Under Meles Zenawi, Ethiopia is a failed state and according to the fourth annual Failed States Index report of 2008, Ethiopia ranks 16th out of 177 countries. The FSI focuses on social, economic, political/military indicators that put the country under serious risk.
According to the FSI report, Ethiopia’s economy and the ability of much of its population to avoid severe malnutrition are highly dependent and as drought grips the nation, many more Ethiopians struggle to survive, aggravating an already existing food crisis. Nonetheless, agriculture is the nation’s most promising resource, and Ethiopia has the potential to become self-sufficient in grains and develop exports in livestock, flowers, grains, oilseeds, sugar, vegetables, and fruits. The economy lacks sustainability and remains a major impediment to growth and the alleviation of poverty. The government remains heavily involved in the economy and reforms have attracted inadequate amounts of foreign investment. The economic indicator worsened from 8.0 in 2007 to 8.2 in 2008. Ethiopia lacks sufficient foreign exchange earnings.
Foreign investment is poor, agricultural practices need improvement, transportation infrastructure is poor, economic reforms have to be made, and the establishment of peace are essential to developing the economy. Peace, however, continues to be threatened by the border dispute with Eritrea, ethnic violence, a separatist insurgency.
The government uses repressive tactics against the opposition, and corruption continues to be commonplace. The highly disputed 2005 elections resulted in a highly factionalized government.
The law requires an independent judiciary, and although civilian courts remained relatively independent, criminal courts are weak, overburdened, and subject to political intervention. There is an extreme lack of qualified staff within the judiciary.
The civil service continued to suffer from corruption and a lack of resources. The government tightly controlled news broadcasts and arrested, harassed, and prosecuted journalists, publishers, and editors. Freedom of assembly was severely restricted. Government officials manipulated the privatization process, with preferential access to land leases and credit given to state and party-owned businesses. Tensions are still high within the government itself due to the 2005 election controversy.
This report from the Failed States Index clearly demonstrates who Brown’s guest is.
Ethiopians recall the historic inaugural speech of President Obama, who declared that those leaders who “cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent are on the wrong side of history”. Meles Zenawi is a dictator who clings to power through corruption and deceit, silencing dissent with mass murder and arrest.
Inviting such a tyrant leader who has a total disregard for inalienable universal human dignity is unacceptable and must be condemned. He doesn’t deserve sitting under one conference roof with leaders who are really devoted to draw a plan to help their countries and people from a damaging economic crisis.
Tyrants like Meles Zenawi have no concern for their country and people. His concern is only for himself and the well-being of small minority groups and puppets who enrich themselves at the expense of poor citizens, buying him time to stay in power.
Gerard Padro Miquel, assistant professor of political economy at the Graduate School of Business, Stanford University, demonstrated that “African dictators distort their economies and steal foreign aid as the means to buy support from selected segments of the populace. These dictators not only deprive their subjects of human rights, they loot their countries so openly that they have become known as ‘kleptocracies’. Efforts by the developed world to aid these economies are often sabotaged by corrupt bureaucracies that siphon off a huge percentage of external development money.”
In relation to African leaders and the G20 summit, Booker Rising, a Kenya-based news site, has commented that, “British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown’s move to meet African leaders and ministers in a bid to seek their joint African position before the G20 summit due on April 2 this year is welcome. In the meeting that took place on 16th March 2009, African leaders however let the continent down by negotiating from a position of weakness. They argued that the continent is a ‘victim’ of externally generated circumstances and hence required funds totalling $50 billion. They also threatened that if the developed world would not provide financial assistance to African states, it would face the potential cost of violent conflict resulting from economic difficulties. Africa’s victim mentality and begging bowl have over the years led to blame games and shirking of responsibility. This is evidenced by dilapidated infrastructure that litters the continent; waiting for developed nations to intervene. It took $13 billion to lift Western Europe from the ravages of war but $300 billion has failed in Africa.”
If Prime Minister Gordon Brown and the G20 nations are serious about Africa’s plight, they need to critically examine who they are sitting with. Such a “partnership” will only be hypocritical and tantamount to bad governance.
The “partnership” needs to extend beyond the summit agenda to tackle the lack of transparency and accountability of African dictators, which is the primary cause of the continent’s poverty.
The promise of US President Barack Obama, “improved governance and sustainable development through out the continent” must be given utmost priority when it comes to concerns about African nations’ plight.