Sunday, August 21, 2005

The Sopranos- Ethiopian Style

Tim Clarke is pissed—in that very detached, very British, very passive aggressive manner that I frankly find unsettlingly beguiling. You know, where they grit their teeth and smile while muttering, “bloodyfuckinghellthisisbloodybullshit!” in a very proper accent before turning back to smile at you, this time icicles dripping from their eyes.

Yeah. It’s all so very Tony Soprano—y’know, where he puts his arm around a guy to tell him, “Yo, hey. Hey, ho, you are like family,” before he pumps several rounds of ammunition into the pathetic guy’s back who had thought he had pulled one over the Tony. Poor guy. Lulled into détente before he finds himself riddled with bullet holes .

So what’s Tim Clarke pissed about? Well, apparently the Ethiopian government lied about him.


Oh yes. The same government that is trying to filch an election in such a tragically comic way, the same government which has yet to bother to even look into the deaths of 42 unarmed people that its soldiers gunned down, the same government which has apoplectic anger management issues... yes, that same government… lied.

Say it ain’t so. Oh, it so. It very so.

The EPRDF, no newcomer to perverse double speak and congenital mendacity, apparently lied. Not only did it lie, but it lied about what Tim Clarke said about the so called election review. And that makes Tim Clarke mad. Tim Clarke doesn’t like people who lie about Tim Clarke. About an entire election? No problem. But about Tim Clarke? We got a problem.

Timmy, Timmy, Timmy. You must be new. Welcome to our world.

Tim Clarke, head of the EU delegation in Ethiopia, has the unenviable position of sitting through meetings with the EPRDF and the opposition parties, and brokering “code of conduct” agreements that he must know mean very little to the Ethiopian government which can’t accept any code of conduct that infringes on its right to summarily imprison its opponents and act in a manner befitting a petulant tyrant. The EPRDF is old-fashioned that way.

You might remember Mr. Clarke from the days when the EPRDF’s unraveling became stark. Remember after the first “peace treaty” was signed and the EPRDF decided to celebrate this occasion by, um, putting perennially cranky opposition leader Very Engineer Hailu Shawel under house arrest? Good times.

So back then, Mr. Clarke and a few diplomats went to see Very Engineer Hailu Shawel, but they didn’t come bearing gifts for the EPRDF goons stationed outside Ato Hailu’s gate because the goons started harassing them.

"This is absolutely disgraceful," Clarke said of the behaviour of the soldiers.
In a phone call to Information Minister Bereket from outside Hailu's home,
Clarke could be heard saying diplomats had been assaulted.

Ah, anal probing of diplomats. Ato Meles’ sharp diplomatic skills at their very best.

Well, anyway, apparently the counting and recounting of these botched elections was not going the EPRDF’s way because it decided to apply its rusty diplomatic skills to seal the deal.

On July 29, 2005 the Ethiopian News Agency (motto: “We misreport, you take our word") reported that Tim Clarke had given his blessing to the election investigation process. Of course Walta Disinformation Center (which, by the way, is in dire need of an editor who is vaguely familiar with grammar) jumped on the story and emblazoned “NEBE Conducting Well Investigation Process” on its website. Don’t… don’t ask. It has since removed that story but here is the cached story—can someone ‘splaine to Walta people that maybe apologizing for a “wrong” story might be a better tactic than trying to idiotically hide a lie on the innernets?

So, ENA… tell us, in your own words (ha ha… get it?) what Tim Clarke said.

Head of delegation of the European Commission to Ethiopia says the National
Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) has been conducting well the investigation
process in difficult circumstances. He also urged political parties in the
country to work closely within the context of the constitution.

Wow. Okay. Well, there is nothing in quotes, so the EPRDF could get away with the “we misread his sentiments” argument.

But, no. That was not good enough for the EPRDF. It had to take the circus one step further because it’s wild and crazy like that.

Tim Clarke told ENA yesterday that given the constraints in Ethiopia, the
electoral board has done remarkable job in trying to bring the process to a
satisfactory end.

Ooooh, “remarkable job.” Remarkable job?? EPRDF’s Department of Bullshit, quite ably headed by master of mediocrity Ato Bereket Simon, must not believe in subtlety. Remarkable.

Then in a very “what the hell, who’s gonna know” move, the EPRDF went juuuuuuust a little further and cemented its reputation as a glorified gangsta.

"I myself participated in one investigation in one area to see how it worked. It
was a fascinating and unique process as no other country in the world has gone
through the same process like here,” he said.

Aw, shit. Okay, you see what I mean by mediocre? If you are going to make up a quote, EPRDF, at least try to make it, how can I say it, believable? That sentence structure is so Bereket Simon, right down to its tormented sentence structure.

“As no other country in the world has gone through the same process like here”??? Are you kidding me? I know Ato Bereket is busy “contesting” the votes that drummed him out of his parliamentary seat, and thus he is testier than ever, but, please.

It was professionally managed and chaired by NEBE, he said.
Yeah. Whatever. I’m still pissed off that we have a government which can’t even make up a halfway decent misquote.

So all of this made Tim Clarke snap because he sent a letter to Ato Bereket Simon and then cc’ed the opposition and members of the soon-to-not-be-free private press.


Meester Clarke, please, enlighten us.

I have been disturbed by some of the misreporting in the press of last
Thursday’s meeting between PM Meles and Opposition Leaders. I personally have
been misquoted in some cases, causing confusion and misunderstanding.

Confusion and misunderstanding? Whachoo mean confusion and misunderstanding? Didn’t you, um, say those remarkable things? (Mr. Clarke never did say what he said and what he did not say.) So this is what a pissed off Brit sounds like? Hmm.
As you know Minster, I was surprised at the EPRDF decision to put out a
statement at the time of signature of the Code of Conduct on Friday afternoon,
calling into question the integrity of the Opposition parties.

Tim Clarke is ... surprised that the EPRDF is calling into question the integrity of the opposition parties?? I’m sorry. We are talking about the same EPRDF that has been accusing the opposition of having wet dreams of unleashing Rwandan style genocide on the Ethiopian people? Oh, it also blamed the opposition for making it kill unarmed people. I thought that calling into question the opposition’s integrity was THE reason EPRDF woke up in the morning.

Monsieur Clarke? You have something else to add?

I had no idea, nor did the Opposition leaders that the agreement reached the
previous night in the presence of PM Meles would in some way be qualified,
breaking the confidence and trust that needs, as you know, at this very
difficult time, to be nurtured, reinforced and deepened.

"I had no idea." Oh, Mr. Timothy. Did the EPRDF shock, shock you. Ayzon! Ayzon! Me, personally, I don’t want to say that the EPRDF has a long and remarkable history of breaking confidences and trusts, but…. Heck, yes, I’m saying that.

Okay, I’m lost. Mr. Clarke, did you or didn’t you say, “I myself participated in one investigation in one area to see how it worked. It was a fascinating and unique process as no other country in the world has gone through the same process like here”? That’s all we want to know, Mr. Clarke. Please?

Hours and weeks of trying to delicately put together this document were thrown
aside in an hour. This, in my judgment, cannot be good for the democratisation

Hmm, you’re not gonna tell us, are ya?

In my humble view, I believe it is in the interest of all parties to come back
again and sign the Code of Conduct.

Hmm… Why? Because all the other “code of conduct” treaties worked so well, or because you want to see if the EPRDF can violate a “code of conduct” treaty in less than an hour this time around? How many “code of conducts” do you think the EPRDF will have to violate before Mr. Clarke says “bloodyfuckinghellthisisbloodybullshit!” to Ato Bereket?


At the same time, I believe, as colleagues have being saying over many weeks,
that there is a deep-seated need to tackle the present ills of the media- to
raise professionalism and standards of integrity. This is a prerequisite for
democracy to take root and thrive.

Here’s why a lot of us are confused: we thought that a government which actually believes in democracy was a prerequisite for democracy. We feel… remarkably swindled.

The Ministry of Information must set and adhere to the highest standards of
integrity too.
Ato Bereket, head of the Ministry Information is a lot of things. An adherent to integrity, let alone the highest standards of integrity… not so much.

Remember this interview:

Just to pin down the specific question about guns. Why was deadly
force allowed when you could have used water canons or tear gas?

We have used that, I assure you. We have used that…

Just to pin down the specific question about guns. Why was
deadly force allowed when you could have used water canons or tear

We have used that, I assure you. We have used that…

June 20, 2005, Mesqel Square Interview

Safe to say that Ato Bereket and ‘highest standards of integrity’ will not be sharing the same motel room any time soon.

In the medium term, I believe that a broad-based consultative process should be
launched to reflect on the present ills of the media and to see how improvements
can be introduced to ensue that it truly works in the interests of the people.

I am no media wonkette, so can someone tell me what in the hell is a “broad based consultative process”, and is it really needed to “reflect on the present ills of the media”? Wouldn’t a simple “The Ethiopian government cannot be trusted” be enough? No? We have to launch a “broad-based consultative process” to come to that conclusion? Okay. Launch away. See if I care.

So, here’s what I think this whole thing means because you and I know that Tim Clarke knows that the Ethiopian government is creepy beyond what’s imaginable. I mean, c’mon. This is not about any kind of expectation that Ato Meles and Ato Bereket will all of a sudden morph into choir boys. The EU knows who it is dealing with. Another code of conduct? Sure, knock yourself out, Timmy. But there’s more to the story, of course.

Basically, this is the EU’s way of putting an arm around Ato Meles and saying, “Hey, yo. Yo, hey. We were hopin’ to keep this in the family. You know you’re like a son to me.”


This is where the EPRDF should do a little backtracking.

“Tony,” (well, in this case EU…) “I didn’t mean nuthin’ by it. I was just trying to lift morale of the troops. Y’know what that’s like. I was startin' to look really bad so... so I said something stupid. But you know, Tone, I’d never disrespect you like that. Swear on my mutha.”

Tony (EU)-smiling icily-: Listen, pal. I’ve been looking the udder way when you fuckin’ went ape shit and killed all those people and I had to look the family right in de eye and tell dem that youse okay, and that youse was just a little excited. And how do you pay me for dat act of kindness? You drag my name though d'mud, you ungrateful little turd. I should wring yo’ fuckin’ neck right now, but we are family…

EPRDF: Yes, Tone, we are family. And families forgive. I swear, Tony, this will never happen again.

Tony EU- Goddamn straight it won’t happen again…

EPRDF: I beg you…, I beg you Tony-EU. It… never… I never meant to disrespect you or the family.

Tony-EU: You are a disgrace.

EPRDF: I am. I am! I swear on my mutha… Tone, I love you.

Tony-EU: Yeah?

EPRDF: Yeah, yeah. I do.

Tony EU: Okay.

EPRDF: We cool, Tony?

Tony-EU (smiling): We cool, you bastard. You okay?

EPRDF: Phew. Tony you won't reget this. I promise ya.

Tony-EU: We just need to set up a… “broad based consultative process” to… y’know… avoid another misunderstanding.

EPRDF: Whatever you say, Tony.

Tony-EU: Okay. Fo’geddabaoudeed. You say hi to Olivia and the kids for me. We should have you over soon. Heh? Y’d like that? Good. Okay, here’s Silvio. He’ll let you know about the schedule to sign a new code of conduct. See ya!

Exit Tony Soprano. Enter Silvio Dante.

Silvio: Yo, EPRDF. Let’s take a walk by the woods dere.

EPRDF screams and falls to its knees.

Scene ends. Thank you. Thankyouverymuch.

Silvio Dante, in this case, will be played by EU Chief Observer Ana Gomes, who I have long predicted would be the one to blow the roof off this baby. For some reason I have a feeling that she has had it up to here with the EPRDF’s bullshit, and sooner or later the EU will have to put out its final statement about whether these elections were free and fair. We are all waiting to see, if after all this, it declares the Ethiopian elections free and fair.

Remember the EU has promised to “make a public denunciation of developments to distance itself from "the lack of transparency, and assumed rigging" of the vote.

And that

Unless there is a "drastic reverse toward good democratic practice" the observer
team and EU "will have to publicly denounce the situation.
"Otherwise, the EU jointly with ex-president Carter will be held largely
responsible for the lack of transparency, and assumed rigging, of the

Can making up quotes attributed to the Head of the EU delegation by the Ethiopian government in order to undermine the election process be considered a “drastic reverse towards good democratic practice”?

Hey, these days, who knows? But EU must be sweating bullets right now because its reputation is at stake. The problem is, I don't think that the EPRDF has the shame to understand just what it means to be called a liar by an international organization.

This is why the opposition, more importantly, the rabid supporters of the opposition should sit back and watch the EPRDF destroy itself instead of going all hysterical about making Meles resign. Oh, please. Can all of you just please just take a chill pill, sit back and keep handing the EPRDF a long enough rope, and watch it tighten it around its own neck?

Seeesh. I have to do everything. The nutsoids on the opposition side will be the ones to lose the elections for the opposition… because they can’t shut their trap. As far as I am concerned, the EPRDF is doing a great job making itself obsolete. And how. But then again, it’s smart politics to play good cop, bad cop, and I suspect that the opposition is playing that game very, very well. What do I know?


Blogger kuchiye said...

EU does not wish to see its report trigering riot by declaring the election totally flowed.

Characterstically, the report will praise the the constributions of both the opposition and the rulling parties for their part in promoting the cause of democracy in Ethiopioa; the wisdom and patience excercised through trying times albait the unfortunate incident in which 60 lives were lost. Of course the report will not be "worth the paper it is written on" if it doesn't sprinkle incidents of abuse by EPRDF and cases of dangerous rehtoric by the opposition parties. As much as I don't expect EU to declare the election "null & void" I would also think it is a strech to expect it to reccommnend formation of government of national unity since it will be vehimently opposed by EPRDF. After all EPRDF stands to gain little if any in this option.

Lets not forget EU is full to the brim with career diplomats and beurocrats whose professional duty is to create something that resembles a win-win situation for all. In this respect they will try to extract as much consession as possible from Meles to enable the opposition parties look like real opposition. Meles, despite his rehtoric "denfata", is one scared soul deep inside and will conceed to stay in power. All the silly laws passed in parliament after the election(..agenda.etc), all the last minute manuevers to strip Addis Ababa of its source of revenue, among others, are Meles's childish political ploys that he knowingly created in order to conceed in the inevitable political negotiation down the strech.

EU, EPRDF and the opposition parties have roles to play and scores to make so they will all stand out as winners in front of their constitiuencies.

Good day to all

11:49 AM, August 22, 2005  
Anonymous Not Genet Zewdie said...

Very true, Kuchiye. Whatever the EU says, it can't endorse the elections as free and fair, and that in itself is a problem for the EPRDF. a) no "real" legitimacy, thereby "nulling and voiding" its "not just by African standards but by any standards" open and free elections bullshit.
b) the opposition might finally step up and call for a rally and thereby show of force
c) WonqqeTTiye, you did say some while back that the EU would never denounce these election, but give tacit approval to the eprdf. Judging by what i'm hearing here in addis, they might be a little more forceful than that against Meles and co., but still very wishy washy.

Ethiopians just have to keep the pressure up because the 161 seats the opposition has won is virtually useless now that there are new laws that the outgoing parliment implemented. it's becomeing very all or nothing. no one can work with the tplf. Meles just does not get sharing power.

maybe Jimm'i Ca'ra will surprise us.

is it me or is the opposition not using its political capital at all?

from my armchair,

WSM, send the shimagilez to qebenna bunna bet. i'll be the one on the last stool of the banconi. send starbucks icecream.

5:30 PM, August 22, 2005  
Anonymous moo tee said...

You said:

The problem is, I don't think that the EPRDF has the shame to understand just what it means to be called a liar by an international organization.

exactly. so why would we think that the TPLF/EPRDF would care what the EU says. when the US state department issued its human rights report, the tplf/eprdf expelled the american observers (NDI etc.) we are kidding ourselves if we think that the EU matters to the eprdf (unless, of course, it whole heartedly endorsed the elections, and then the eprdf would use that to clean house.)

if the EU was smart it would declare this null and void and demand new elections (I agree with kuchiye, they won't say it in those exact terms, but cushion the blow for the eprdf's ego.)

As for formation of a unity government.. ha! Koizumi was the one pushing for that, and look at him. he dissolved his parliment over whether the post office should be privatized or not.

But then again, the EU might surprise us. those were strong words that it leaked about how the NEBE has lost control over the counting.

7:23 PM, August 22, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


And who says you can't out-do yourself?

And well said, kuchiye. If we picture a slider with democracy on the left and dictatorship on the right, the EPRDF has, since the vote, moved the slider scale to the right with the actions you mentioned. Plus using the investigation to actually reduce the number of opposition seats, banning opposition access to the media, brazenly using the media as a propaganda tool, stepping up inflammatory and threatening rhetoric, and worst of all, making it a point to show everyone that the EPRDF is boss and that it will stop at nothing to stay in power.

(It is my view that these actions were totally unnecessary because neither the opposition nor the donor countries, certainly not the donors, would have strongly opposed a rigged EPRDF victory of 55-45% or so.)

This has been a big, big blow to the evolution of democracy in Ethiopia. If the EPRDF's recent actions go unpunished, well, it would be like giving heroin to an addict, setting Ethiopia back years. So for the EU, the responsible thing to do is force the EPRDF to move the slider back to the left, just a little farther than where it was before the investigation process. Let the EPRDF concede not only what kuchiye has mentioned, but a few more seats, and then let the EPRDF rule for the next five years, but without impunity.

BTW, this would also be in the best interests of the EPRDF, which would, under scrutiny, raise its standards and better prepare for its inevitable fall from absolute power. If only they could understand!

Are the EU capable of forcing the EPRDF's hand? Sure they are. A bad report would help, and then threatening to cut more aid would clinch the deal. Are they likely to? It's hard to say. Even diplomacy doesn't always follow the form book. Remember what the EEBC did when the diplomatic, all-face-saving thing to do was give Badme to Ethiopia!

12:31 AM, August 23, 2005  
Anonymous Yohannes said...

Well, Wonqiyee,

You called the Ana Gomes thing right on!

1:50 PM, August 25, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lucia says...

Never mess with the inner workings of foreign governments. There is no such thing as a 'just' government.

Mizza says...

Not even in Liechtenstein.

7:59 PM, December 05, 2006  

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