Thursday, October 04, 2007

Ato Samuel Aseffa Hates HR 2003.

Ethiopia’s Ambassador to the United States, His Excellency Ato Sammy Assefa, is a moron has a, shall we say, fluctuant relationship with reality.

HR 2003, the Ethiopia Democracy and Accountability Act of 2007, passed/sailed through the US House of Representatives, a fact that is pushing the Ato Sammy, already not exactly the paragon of coherency, to the very edge of complete incomprehensibility.

Herewith ye shall find his response to the passage of HR 2003… and seriously, it’s… turbo crazy.

Apparently, HR 2003 is “irresponsible legislation.” We know this to be true because the EPRDF, a government being so ably-ineptly represented by this Ambassador, knows a thing or two about passing legislations that are exquisite in their irresponsibility.

But we wonder if Ato Samuel thinks that passage of HR 2003 would-create-fresh-obstacles-to-Ethiopia's-bold-efforts-towards-comprehensive-democratic-reforms, hm?

The U.S. House of Representatives today approved irresponsible legislation that, if it becomes law, would create fresh obstacles to Ethiopia's bold efforts towards comprehensive democratic reforms.

Oh, Sammy.

The action disregards Ethiopia's immense progress in creating a competitive, pluralistic system of government and a more open civil society.

Oh, Sammy.

According to the U.S. State Department, "[t]he [2005] elections stand out as a milestone in creating a new, more competitive multiparty political system in one of Africa's largest and most important countries."

Okay, we understand some EPRDF half-wit public relations wonk probably told the Ambassador to keep throwing in US specific examples in his soft-core retorts—how else to explain Ato Samuel’s unfortunate “farmers in Iowa” disquisition in the FP interview?—but, really, we promise you, Mr. Ambassador, we are not all imbeciles. What good is a “milestone” election if the results are stolen and the opposition herded to jail? How can we put this so that EPRDFfers can understand… it’s like if Prime Minister Meles didn’t appoint the same person to head the supreme court and the election board. What good is an independent judiciary and election board if it can’t be completely controlled? Get it? Good. So can we de-Viagra the whole hard on the EPRDF has for Elections 2005? Whatever credit it might have garnered was completely annihilated by what happened after the elections. Okay. Send out a memo to retool that talking point.

But the good Ambassador leaves the best for the middle:

While many of these democratic gains seem to have gone unnoticed by Members of Congress, the very presence of two recently convicted and pardoned senior opposition leaders who testified at the Congressional hearing today bears witness to the Ethiopian Government's brave resolve to reinvigorate the democratic process.

You see what we mean? You see what we mean?!

In other words, the very presence of Berhanu Nega and (the democracy diva) Bertukan Medeksa at the hearings is proof of the EPRDF’s profile in courage, in that if the EPRDF had not bravely charged these… these… violent economist and lawyer/judge with “attempted genocide” and then imprisoned them for two years and then ran a sham trial and then convicted them and then sought the death penalty and then pardoned them… if the EPRDF had not made their lives miserable and maligned them, they would not be in front of Donald Payne whining about democracy. Only because the EPRDF was brave enough to harass/imprison/pardon these two misfits are they able to bear witness to, um, the Ethiopian Government's brave resolve to reinvigorate the democratic process.

So, you’re welcome, Berhanu and Bertukan!

It is jarring, to say the least, that immediately in the wake of these pardons the U.S. House of Representatives approved punitive measures against Ethiopia.

Jarring, indeed. For Christ’s sake, people, these geeks were pardoned just by the sheer braveness of the EPRDF. They were pardoned. Heloo? What else can the EPRDF do to get some rispek around Capitol Hill? Round up thousands and set up concentration camps? Then free 18,000 of them as a gesture of goodwill in the new millennium? Done. Persecute the free press then free 25 journalists who were charged with “treason”? Done. Install jivey ambassadors to elucidate on such bold moves towards democracy? So-ho done! What else can possibly be done?

[t]he House sadly has allowed itself to be used by extremists in Ethiopian politics who reject peaceful and legal avenues of political participation. The House action serves only to bolster these hard-line elements by encouraging the politics of extremes.

Yeah. So hate-filled are these extremists who pushed for HR 2003 that they… peacefully lobbied a branch of government! They, unlike the EPRDF, don’t have the moxie it takes to gun down unarmed citizens. Oh, House of Representatives, what has become of thee?

Mr. Payne made this clear in a recent press release in which he accused Ethiopia -- against all evidence and common sense -- of being "a source of instability in the region."

Yaaa. No evidence to back the uncommon sense reality that the EPRDF’s invasion of Somalia has created havoc, dare we say... instability in the Horn. There are no random explosions that kill civilians on any given day in Somalia. Somalia is not breaking up into tiny kibble ‘n bits. The biggest market in Somalia is as vibrant as any farmer’s market in, let’s say… Iowa. HRW has not accused the Ethiopian government of committing war crimes in Somalia. In fact, if Mr. Payne wants to see first hand all the non-evidences of just how non-jihadi Somalia has become after EPRDF’s intervention, the Ambassador will be happy to arrange for a peaceful one-way ticket to bright, sunny Mogadishu. He will even throw in the flack jackets.

You might be wondering by now, is absolutely no Samuel Aseffa philippic complete without the obligatory finger-jabbing at the EPRDF’s former guerrilla buddy who now rule s the land called Eritrea?

Wonder no more. Go on, boy. Do your thang.

The fact is that the entire region faces a serious threat from [... three guesses who...]Eritrea -- a country that the U.S. Department of State is considering listing as a state sponsor of terrorism, and that has rejected the core institutions of legal opposition parties and a private press, officially banning both, and also outlawed worship by minority religious denominations.

Forgiving the bad writing in that paragraph, we note with stunned admiration His Excellency’s seasoned peddling of obfuscation. “Officially banning.” Huh? Huh, do you see what we see? At least the opposition is not officially banned in Ethiopia—just imprisoned or under constant unofficial harassment. And the free press can operate very freely as long as it very freely tows the EPRDF line. Now if only the EPRDF can nettle those Scientologist and those Kabbalah-ists, Ethiopia would officially be known as the country less crazy than Eritrea. It used to be “we are better than Mengistu” but these days that’s ringing too close to home. Lucky for Ato Meles, he has another low bar to compare his miserable record to.

Ato Samuel… resign.

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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Happy New Year!

Melkam Addis Amet! Happy New Year, Land O'Wonqville! May the New Year bring us joy, love, peace and... less EPRDF madness.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Close your eyes, Tear up Your Calendar

Close your eyes. Tear up your calendar. It is the 80’s in Ethiopia all over again.

From HRW

[The Derg] later used the disaster as a pretext to forcibly relocate hundreds of thousands of villagers from northern Ethiopia to areas in the south. The Dergue argued that its "villagization" campaign, as it came to be known, was meant to relocate people from food deficient areas to the fertile plains of the south. In reality, the move was meant to empty rebel-held areas form potential supporters.

From Global Security: (From Newsday)

The [famine] scare prompted Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, a silver-tongued policy wonk and darling of the World Bank and other foreign donors, to embark on a policy of resettlement that would have been unthinkable when he took power 13 years ago. He decided that, if millions of highland Ethiopians could not feed themselves year after year, his government would truck them to less-crowded, more-fertile land.

That the current government has latched on to the resettlement scheme to solve the drought problem is a shock to many people familiar with this country's history.

The people who overthrew the previous military regime of Mengistu Haile Mariam 20 years ago were ardent enemies of his similar resettlement plan. Those people - including Prime Minister Meles - are now policymakers.

Time Magazine: Famine Hunger Stalks Ethiopia Again December 21, 1984

But much of Tigre remains cut off; the Tigrean People's Liberation Front has demanded that the Mengistu government rescind its resettlement policy before it guarantees the safety of the food trucks.


Close your eyes. Tear up your calendar. It is 1984 in Ethiopia all over again.

Back then, Mengistu Hailemariam’s brutality allowed for homeless people to be removed from Addis so as to not offend Soviet dignitaries who were coming to pat their revo-apparatchik on his head for ten wonderful years of Marxist obedience.


November 11, 1984

(Subscription Required)

American officials, in turn, charge that Ethiopia itself played down the famine until after it observed the 10th anniversary of its Communist regime in September, a celebration on which, according to Mrs. Fenwick, the Ethiopians spent more than $100 million.

AP: August 28, 2007 Homeless Ethiopians Moved Out of Capital.

Thousands of homeless people will be moved from the capital to the countryside before next month's millennium celebration and provided help with food, shelter and medicine, a development group said Tuesday.

Beggars are a common sight in Addis Ababa, a city of 5 million with an estimated 90,000 living on the streets.

Ethiopia is planning a 10-hour celebration in Meskel Square to mark the millenium, an event expected to draw tourists from around the world.


New York Times Editorial: How Banquets can Feed Ethiopians

May 26, 1988

(Subscription required)

The Ethiopian Government of Lieut. Col. Mengistu Haile Mariam appears bent on starving some two million people. It refuses to allow international relief agencies access to stricken areas. … Colonel Mengistu has expelled the Red Cross and other humanitarian agencies, claiming that they were aiding anti-Government rebels in the northern provinces of Eritrea and Tigre.

BBC: Ethiopia Deadline for Red Cross

July 24, 2007

The Red Cross has been given seven days to leave the Ogaden region bordering Somalia by the Ethiopian government.

The regional president of Ethiopia's Somali region, Abdullai Hassan, told the BBC that the ICRC had been given seven days to leave the area.

He accused the organisation of collaborating with the enemy and of spreading baseless accusations against the regional government on its website.


Close your eyes. Tear up your calendar. It is 1990 in Ethiopia.

TIME: Africa Death by Starvation

January 22, 1990

Of all the obscenities of war, none is as inexcusable as the deliberate slaughter of civilians.

Yet a hunger crisis may hit as early as March because most of the people at risk are trapped behind lines controlled by the three insurgent armies battling Mengistu's troops. Mengistu so far refuses to let relief convoys enter rebel-controlled territories for fear the food may go toward feeding the insurgents or the trucks may be ferrying arms to them. His obstinacy follows a year of humiliating defeats for his forces in Eritrea and Tigre.

New York Times: Ethiopia is said to block food to rebel region.

July 22, 2007

The Ethiopian government is blockading emergency food aid and choking off trade to large swaths of a remote region in the eastern part of the country that is home to a rebel force, putting hundreds of thousands of people at risk of starvation, Western diplomats and humanitarian officials say.


Close your eyes and keep them closed.

Charlayne Hunter-Gault’s famous interview wuth Mengistu Hailemariam for the McNeil-Lehrer NewsHour circa 1984/5

Asked about his reputation as a mass murderer, Mengistu, without flinching, said he can’t even remember harming a fly, let alone kill a human being.

TIME Magazine: Interview with PM Meles Zenawi

September 6, 2007

TIME: Your image as a role model for African leaders has been tarnished by the perception that your government is not concerned with human rights.

Meles: As a person, I have never been discourteous or nasty to anybody. I may have stood my ground a bit too directly, a bit too firmly, and I believe I have over a number of years learned to be a little less direct.


If it is true that we become what we hate most, then Ato Meles has come full circle.

Beneath all the sparkly lights of a new Addis skyline, beyond the ephemeral distraction of an extravaganza celebration of the millennium, we forget just how bloody, how vicious, how vindictive the EPRDF and Ato Meles are.

Open your eyes and look back at the calendar.


TIME: Ethiopia- Few Tears for Tyrant

June 3, 1991

At 11 a.m. last Tuesday, U.S. charge d'affaires Robert Houdek was called to the office of Ethiopian Prime Minister Tesfaye Dinka in Addis Ababa. With tears in his eyes, Tesfaye announced that President Mengistu Haile Mariam had resigned and left the country.

The Prime Minister was one of the few people to weep for Mengistu, whose brutal 14-year dictatorship -- the last hard-line Marxist-Leninist regime in Africa -- had turned his nation of 51 million people into a wasteland of famine and internecine fighting.

God’s speed.

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Friday, August 24, 2007

Ato Samuel Goes to Washington....Part 1

We will ask this question knowing the answer: does everything/everyone that comes into contact with the EPRDF immediately dissolve into immitigable mediocrity?

(This is the part where you say, “yes”.)

So we are watching this horrifying video of the current Ethiopian ambassador to the United States and … seriously? Even given the generous provision that defending Ato Meles and his ghetto fabulous approach to public policy is as near an impossible undertaking as you can get, Ato Samuel Assefa, considered to be Ato Meles’ Karl Rove (how do you say ‘Turd Blossom’ in Amharic?) seems not to be trying at all.

Now, we at Weichegud… we are simple people. We don’t relish jumping all over opportunist ersatz intellectuals… no. Wait. We do relish that.

And so enters one Ambassador Samuel Assefa into our lives. He took over from our previous friend, the besottingly crazy Kassahun Ayele who routinely castrated himself whenever he had to … what’s that thing called when an ambassador has to negotiate difficult diplomatic terrains… talk. He is sorely missed—in that we miss the cerebral sores he gave us.

Soooo…. some know-it-alls at Foreign Policy, what with their fancy graphs and fancy indices, put Ethiopia in their “Failed States” list, the 2007 version. Big woop. Then they send someone to interview the ambassador so he could ‘splaine himself. And that’s when things start unraveling.

Okay. So we are hoping that this shit was very, very unfairly edited and that Ato Samuel really did not say these things because, if he did, we have to slit our wrists.

Question number 1:

Is Ethiopia a failed state?

Simple enough. How can anyone fuck that one up? Throw out your own bullshit statistics, hover in never-never-land, blame the weather and the vast right wing conspiracy and, bara-bing. Out of the park Yeah?

Answer: [Preceded by a good impression of a dumb look.]

What exactly does it mean to be a failed state? [Look around as if the answer might be on your desk.] Uh… whatever it is it, is not a failed state.

Waa? Hold right there, cowboy. Did you… could you… have you… Dude, c’mon! You had an Ivy League education! What the hell kind of a defense is "Ethiopia is not a failed state because I don’t know what a failed state is?" That's like saying, “I don’t know what that is, but whatever it is, it is not.” You see how that doesn't work... at all?

(But we will try it at work. “Why is my report late? I don't know what you mean by late. Since I don't know the meaning of late, how can it be late?)

Oh, no. He is still talking.

But I am not so sure that we know what it means to be a failed state according to this model. I believe the indices themselves are radically insufficient to give us a sense of what is going on in Ethiopia. It is a huge political experiment. Incredibly complex society. A very old, OLD country, huh… whose claim to being one of the cradles of civilization should be taken seriously.

Uh. Yeah. We have a question:… Whaaaat?

Which brings up the point: What the hell kind of indices did those magniloquent boobs at FP use to come to such a grand conclusion, and did they take into consideration just how OLD a civilization Ethiopia is? What, they think they can judge us by their “refugees and displaced persons” index; their “public service” index, their “human rights” index; their whatever the hell “factionalized elites” index is? Where is the “Do you claim Sheba and Solomon fornicated and thus a king was born” index, huh, you elitist bastards?! Good day, sirs. No, we said good day!

We want to tell you it is uphill from there, but---

Question number 2:

Why is there such a gap between the rich and poor in Ethiopia?

Okay, phew. Easy question to deflect. Redeem yourself, Mr. Ambassador. Make Princeton proud.

Blah.. blah…

… the nation is composed of small landholders … uh… and that 85% that are on the land control the land. There isn’t strict property over the land but… use of [something] right, [something] of tenure is also provided. The mainstay of the agrarian economy are the small farmers…

Sammy, Sammy, Sam-mi! You have got be shittin’ us!

Ahhh, the nation is composed of landholders who- ehem- don’t have strict ownership of the land? What's that? Is that the crazy way of saying that the government of Ethiopia strictly owns ALL the land in Ethiopia, and 85% of the population are its serfs? Boo, you disappoint us.

Or was Ato Samuel being smarter than we are dumb and subtly indicting the EPRDF’s own deranged policy: there is poverty because we don’t let anyone own their own land, he is saying in nuanced sem-inna-werq. If so, he should be expecting a very irate call from Ato Meles which will start with something like, “Hey, Ivy League boy. What are we paying you for?”

So, to re-cap, what is to blame for the gap between rich and poor in Ethiopia? Those piddling, non-land holding landowner freaks who are bringing all of us down.

And as if that response was not in itself spectacularly inane, Ato Smauel pushes the envelope ever so gently further into Crazy EPRDF Land. You were saying, Mr. Ambassador…

Maybe you can think of, I dunno, Iowa. Of course the farms in Iowa are far larger, more technological. But it is… the state it is, what, is populated by small farmers. That’s the ideal. So, I don’t think inequality in that sense is intended because still we have now put in place a market economy, but still, it has not developed in such a way that huge inequities, huge inequities of the kind that you mention exist.

So… you know how when you watch a really bad horror movie—there is always some self righteous, dumb blonde who decides to go to the basement alone to confront the monster, and she is all like “Hello. Is anyone there?” and you are like, “Anchi qebeT. Yibelish!”

Rigggght? So, the blonde in this scenario is played by Ato Samuel, and may we say, what a performance.

And why we gotta drag the poor people of Iowa into this, anyway, what with their technological farms? Never mind that according to the US Census of 2005, Iowa is ranked smack in the middle (27th) of states with people living below the poverty level. Those bastard farmers in Iowa. Do they actually own their own land or are they tenured, um, statistic dragger-downers? And what “radically insufficient” indices are used to determine these rankings anyway?

Now we realize being perched in Washington DC and projectile vomiting platitudes is a cushy position we one day hope to aspire to, but, insane talk aside, has the Ambassador ventured out to Ethiopia recently, ‘coz we gotta tell him, there is a HUGE gap between rich and poor thanks to the wondrously incompetent cleptocracy run by Ato Meles and his dingbat man Fridays. But, we ain’t no philosophy majors.

Coming up in Part 2… Rodney King has a three-way with Eritrea: The Good Ambassador ups the ante on insanity.

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Monday, August 13, 2007

Silence before death

There is an incredibly poignant article in Ethiomedia titled How Long Does Hunger Last? It is written by an Ethiopian in 2000, yet it heartbreakingly applies to today’s Ethiopia. Things have a way of staying put in Ethiopia.

The emptiness and despair in the eyes of the three children who were sharing a tiny dirt spot in one of the crowded makeshift shelters were horrifying. Their mother, helplessly lying beside them, placed the palm of her bony left hand under her hollow left cheek while holding the wrist of her famished three-year-old daughter as if trying to feel the child’s remote pulse. The two boys, too weak to sit upright, shifted their eyes from their little sister to their mother and again back to their little sister in a manner that revealed their hidden horror of losing either one in a matter of hours.

The writer, Tewodros Abebe, recalls the horror of seeing a family on the verge of death. A mother, herself emaciated, waits to see how long it will take for her children to die.

When my daughter was an infant she had an insatiable appetite. If I waited one minute longer than she could bear the hunger pains, she would let out a wail that’d haunt me for hours.

So imagine the pain of Ethiopian mothers who have to first hear the wails of their hungry children and be unable to feed them. Then imagine the silence that follows.

The article is gut wrenching on so many levels—but more so because it is written by an Ethiopian. This is not a CARE pamphlet. It is not a sanctimonious BBC documentary on those starving Africans. These are the words of one of us who has seen the horror of man-made famines.

My mother has a saying: “Lij yewelede indet g’ff yiseral?” (Someone translate that for me.) And that’s what I don’t understand about the EPRDF. How can Ato Meles, a parent himself, be sanguine about letting other people’s children die?

And how can we, as Ethiopians, keep on letting this happen to us? Why have we outsourced the well being of our mothers to NGOs and Bono?

Tewodros writes about “the disheartening images of men bitterly crying like children when they were informed that their and their families’ share of the day’s food ration was gone.”

How long does hunger last? Apparently as long as we are willing to look away.

I have gotten a few emails from people who want to do some volunteer work during their visit to Ethiopia to celebrate the Millennium. Organizations in Ethiopia looking for help, please post your information in the comments section or send me an email. One organization to look into is the Ethiopian Women Lawyers Association.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

My Millennium

It is a historical day in the Wonqette household. I finally won an argument. I laid down my case, argued it passionately, presented evidence and bara-bing, Master of the Domain conceded. What have I been doing wrong all these years?

The issue at hand was going back home to celebrate the Ethiopian Millennium. I had always been uneasy about it… contributing to the grand pretence of normalcy. But I went along with it and we were going to take this year’s fall vacation in Ethiopia with family. I thought I could put on blinders and dance the night away… for one night.

But I am my father’s daughter. So instead we, along with a few friends who have decided to do the same, are donating the money to homegrown micro credit outfits.

Friday, July 27, 2007

By way of an explanation...

Where was I?

The first day the kids played in snow in their own backyard it was fun. The second day was… fu-nn? By the third day it was, “Okay, we are ready to go back home.”

No, no darlings. Remember when mommy and daddy packed all those boxes and went crazy for a while?


And remember when we sad goodbye to Brandon and his mommy-- who was glad to see us leave because she hates everything and everybody?


And remember when we said goodbye to grandmother-in-law who thinks her grandson could have done much better?


Well, all of that was because we were moving. Remember we talked about moving?


Well, this is your new home now. Remember, you said you liked your new house? It has a red door. You love that, don't you?



We want to go back to our real house.

Oh, little darlings. We are home.

Child #1: No we’re not.

Child #2: No we ‘ot!

Oh, my lovelies. This is a much better place. There is less silicone. More intellect. Something called a highway. And didn’t you like the people who brought you cookies when we first moved?


You see? And daddy’s closer to his fantasy woman- Condi, who he thinks I don’t know about.


I mean, PTA moms don’t hate mommy yet. And remember we saw a “Give peace a chance” bumper sticker on that limo? Wasn’t that exciting?


You see? Sooo?

Child #1: Yeah. We want to go back to our real house.

Child #2: Yeah. We wanna kagawannabanga ‘ahwse.


Child #2: Gogomeet!

Child #1: I thought you said you were not going to curse any more…

I am not, light of my life. Let’s go get us some of that lovely cough medicine. Remember, the one that makes us sleepy….

So, there you go.

In the midst of all of that debacle we lost Uncle “Can summarize world events in seven words or less.” Took the wind out of me. Made it to Ethiopia for the funeral. (Can we, collectively, as a people do something about the Ethiopian leqso process? Indescribably retarded). Tucked in all the lowlights was one highlight: I finally got to meet Ato G. Blog about that coming up.

Much thanks to the folks at Redeem Ethiopia and Carpe Diem Ethiopia and for Inde Hewan et al for checking in on me once in a while.

I am loving the Yemi at Don’t Eat My Buchela!

Support HR 2003. Call, write your representative. Stay involved.

Ethiopundit has had a lot of artwork that has blown my mind, but this one… oh, this one!