The Real World: Ethiopia
This begins a short series on my take on the diplomats who are at the helm of Ethiopian politics these days.
Today: Tim Clarke.
I don’t know what it means to be a foreign diplomat in
Okay. So here we are. The reality is that the EU and the rest of
Prime Minister Meles, consciously or while he was busy existentially thinking about the peasants, decided this was a great idea. He wanted to be seen as a statesman by the donor community even though Ethiopians knew otherwise.
To the donor community, this was supposed to be easy. The EPRDF would handily win the elections,
What it didn’t count on was the Ethiopian people saying, “Not so fast, good ladies and gentlemen.” And what the donor community definitely didn’t count on was Ato Meles’ very rapid, very public regression back to his days as an equal part psychopath, equal part ersatz intellectual. Soon the Ethiopian Elections starting looking more and more like a Queer Eye for the Straight Guy makeover gone very, very bad. Ato Meles stopped using mousse, and after all the grooming lessons from Tony Blair et al, it must have been a disappointment to see a pet project go so bad. Ah, well.
It left the rest of the world scratching its head and saying, “Tell us again why you thought this guy was progressive and enlightened?”
So, at what point are diplomats allowed to say, “Screw this!” When you are a diplomat, do you check your conscious at the door?
The EPRDF first blamed the June 8 massacre on the opposition, and then, because it’s a little crazy like that, on the EU. It has consistently shown it is incapable of grasping even the most basic tenets of democracy. If there was any, any doubt about that, Ato Meles crystallized it for the world in his 13,287-word deliriously dopey response to the EU’s preliminary statement.
What else does the EPRDF need to do to cross whatever threshold the diplomatic world has for tolerating volatile drama queen despots?
You can’t put your finger on a reason why it went wrong. So what did happen was a massive landslide swing away from the ruling party to the opposition parties, particularly in urban areas, but also to some extent in the rural areas. And they’ve been rumors going around that the counting process… that was a move to stop the process because there were fears that the outcome wasn’t exactly what the ruling party wanted.
What went wrong? People voting for the opposition was not what went wrong. The ruling government not wanting to accept the results is what went wrong. It is not the Ethiopian people who need courage these days. It is the international community.
It would be a major mistake for [the opposition] to pull out because there is no other way forward. … Of course, they may not be happy with the results, and they will be discontent, and they will have difficulty with their supporters perhaps, but this is the only game in town.
This is what drives me crazy. Obviously, people were convinced that it was not the only game in town, and they said so through the ballots. I am assuming that means something.
I want to ask Mr. Clarke what in the heck kind of government he thinks the EPRDF will be like if it is left alone. Has Ato Meles, in any way, given any indication that he is up to dealing with a strong opposition? After what happened on June 8, is Mr. Clarke comfortable that Ato Meles will behave like a democrat, respecting the constitution, and all that tedious stuff leaders have to contend with? It is not the only game in town, and it is saying so that has emboldened Ato Meles to this point.
At what point does diplomacy end, and real life begin?
The Meles government has been playing the Interwhame card, very brazenly low-balling our collective IQs. He has tried to embed the international community with the hazy notion that if not for the EPRDF,
Tim Clarke again:
I think it’s a tinderbox. Essentially, it could explode at any moment. It is a very, very dangerous situation.
First off, civil war?? Did I miss something? Tell me again why people demanding the government to respect the vote will lead to civil war? Is that the choice Ethiopians have: Meles or civil war? (People might forget that before the TPLF marched into Addis in 1991, there were days when the country functioned without a government. And you know what? Ethiopians did not degenerate into animals and kill each other.)
Okay, so let’s see… which party has shown a pronounced tendency for violence? So, assuming that Mr. Clarke is right; wouldn’t it be a moral obligation for the international community to side with people who are NOT going to inflict civil war on a nation which has already suffered enough? I am assuming that “under no circumstances can that be allowed to happen” is a stern warning to Ato Meles to not swagger around with the Ethiopian people in the crosshairs of his machine gun. Unless… surely Mr. Clarke was not saying, “Hey, peeps. You want Meles, or war? Pick one.” I am no diplomatic wonkette, but I’d think that that would send the wrong message to Ethiopians and to people fighting against tyranny.
The Brits in general want this situation to fade away without having to answer for their part in emboldening Ato Meles. Ironically, it is Ato Meles who is making that impossible for them. He has basically dared them to shun their trademark moral relativism. It is checkmate time, and later in September, when the final verdict is in, we’ll see who blinked.
For once, I’d like to see the Brits say, “Y’know… we fucked up on this, and this is what we’ll do to make it right.” (Hopefully, it will not be another G8 concert. Please, noooooo!) I’d just like some kind of accountability from Tony Blair for his hyperactive protégée. Hell, I’ll settle for the slightest gesture of contrition.
Seriously, what would Ato Meles have to do to get swift condemnation from the international community? Here’s what a friend said to me when I asked that question:
“Frankly, most of the world expects so little from
And that’s just it, good ladies and gentlemen. All democracies apparently are not equal. Silly, uppity us! We thought we deserved the same kind of democracy as
Working within the system has gotten us this far, and we thank the international community for it. And if the EPRDF were a different kind of government, the kind of government that had even the slightest respect for human life, that might have been enough. But I am hoping that Mr. Clarke is not asking Ethiopians to work within the system anymore, because the levies holding that system are irreparably broken. I don’t know how much more “in the system” you can get than running for elections within the EPRDF framework. The opposition did that, and it won. What is it that Mr. Clarke is now asking of the Ethiopian people?
At what point do even diplomats say, “Mr. Prime Minister, you’ve been punk’d!”
Hopefully, Mr. Clarke has reached his limit.
Next: Jimm’ah Car’a. Oh, Jimmy!