Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Last Rites of a Megalomaniac

It’s almost a fulltime job trying to keep up with that special brand of crazy the EPRDF and Prime Minister Meles have officially trademarked.

Apparently caught in a time warp, the good prime minister, a tireless crusader for debauchery in every form, thinks there must still be some village idiot out there who thinks democracy is a bloomin’ in Ethiopia.

Well hide your satchels of Lithium, boys and girls, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

So we’ve all seen the US/EU report urging Prime Minister Meles to stop killing people and such, or as the EPRDF likes to think of it… “minor inconveniences.”

Among the delectable items on the US/EU menu:

Therefore, we urge the government and, where relevant, the opposition [huh? Oh, we getcha. You’re being diplomatic. Carry on.] to carry out the following measures:

Immediate end to the use of lethal force, random searches and indiscriminate beatings and massive arrests.

Aww. Why? Is it, um, wrong to use lethal force, random searches and indiscriminate beatings and massive arrests? Because the EPRDF is so-o-o good at that. Besides, what will the red beret gangsters deployed by the EPRDF do to keep busy whilst they roam Addis Abeba? The US/EU needs to understand: indiscriminate beatings and killings are part of Ato Meles’ … what do you call it... jobs program. It’s good for the economy to keep so many people gainfully employed. Capiche? (Normally, wouldn’t a government be mortified to be told to “end to the use of lethal force, random searches and indiscriminate beatings and massive arrests” against its own people? Or is it just me?)

Moving on…

All political detainees should be released.

Hm. Yes. Well, you see that’s going to be a problem. November 8, Reuters:

Ethiopian opposition leaders appeared in court on Monday for the first time since being detained amid bloody political protests last week that claimed 46 lives.

The 24 opposition leaders were ordered to be held another 14 days during the closed hearing, which took place under heavy guard…

That’s just store policy in Ethiopia. You detain people more than 48 hours (constitution monstitution) and then they appear in court; then you continue to hold them further. Any complaints? Write a letter to management. (Make sure you quote Tina Turner. It gets more traction.)

Notification to families of names and whereabouts of detainees, together with appropriate access and provision of humanitarian needs.

Hm. Sure thing. But just to keep track of paperwork and appease the fidgety pencil pushers at EPRDF Central, the EPRDF is asking family members who have had loved ones killed to, um, sign a little document… nothing fancy. (“I so-and-so… living such-and-such… yadda-yadda… the opposition killed my loved one. Thank you, and good night. Long live the revolution.”) Just something to go in the file. Really.

But there is more…

An independent investigation of the deaths and injuries arising from recent events and the events in June.

Hmm. No. But thanks for asking. Maybe later if you threaten sanctions.

And so on and so on. But then… two curious items that sprung up by surprise, not unlike syphilis:

Review and revision of parliamentary rules and practices to ensure that all parties represented in parliament can participate on a fair and representative basis.

Uh-oh. Now this is getting curiouser and curiouser. The US/EU was until recently urging the opposition to join parliament despite the rules passed by the outgoing parliament requiring a 51% majority to bring an item to the agenda. Something changed here, and it ain’t good for el primo ministero. Especially after he took pains to explain to us that the change in parliamentary procedures was in keeping up with… established democracies such as the …UK… Hey, what’s going on here?

And then the axe dropped.

Appointment of a national election board in consultation with the parliamentary opposition.

Ex-squeeze me very much? Where did that come from? A call for an independent national election board? What’s wrong with the one we have now? The one hand-picked by Ato Meles? The one headed by one Kemal Bedi, who when he is not declaring the EPRDF the winner before polls were closed, is busy also being chief of the ... of … the supreme… court… where appeals go to be quashed? What wrong with that NEB?

Now this is trouble for the EPRDF. Soon the US/EU will be demanding new elections, and that’s just… oh, no.

Acting U.S. Ambassador Vicki Huddleston, you have something else to add, I do believe?

We sincerely hope that the government and leaders of Ethiopia will carry out these recommended actions not because they come from the international community, but because these are international standards of human rights, of democracy, and because these recommendations, if followed, could find a way forward for the people of Ethiopia that is peaceful.

Yeah. Well, the “international standard of human rights and democracy” is not faring so well in Ethiopia. Whachoo got, Vicki, say, in the denuded, compromised, retarded, watered-down, “cruel mockery of” standard in “human rights and democracy”? Something that’s Meles-friendly? Something, preferably, that involves indiscriminate beatings, arrests and killings? You go any in that category?

And how does the Ethiopian government respond to all this onslaught of moralistic badgering?

…the government has rejected the appeal. Information Minister Berhan Hailu told Reuters news agency the Western countries should "stop meddling in our internal affairs and mind their own business."

Ahh. Not quite up to the va-va-voom standard set by the Prime Minister of calling diplomats “self-appointed colonial viceroy[s]” but Minister Berhan is only a few weeks into the job. Soon he shall rise to the challenge and churn out his own brand of EPRDFisms to make our long but never lost friend Bereket “anyone who incites violence, other than those elected, will have to face the law" Simon proud. (I haven’t forgotten the tribute to him, by the way.)

Minister “Not so” Berhan, may I? When your government is contending for the ignoble position of being the #1 beggar nation in Africa, when your government accepts over $1.3 billion dollars in aid from the US/EU, when your prime minister goes apoplectic because he thinks it is the West’s responsibility to feed his people…I hate to tell ya, but you become the business of Western countries. Look into it.

You have any more Lithium left?

So, today, restless and tired from pacing the halls of the palace, Prime Minister Meles spoke to reporters:

Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said Wednesday that opposition leaders and newspaper editors under detention will face treason charges, which carry the death penalty in Ethiopia, for their alleged roles in protests last week in which at least 46 people were killed.

Okay… wait… wait for it… patience…

"I don't know what the prosecution will ask for but the death penalty is still legal in Ethiopia. On a personal note that is not the penalty I would like to see applied," Meles said. "


More on that later.

In the meantime, here is the Reuters’ video- Ethiopians Bury Victims Of Unrest.

How will Ato Meles think he will ever walk the streets of Ethiopia? Karma, Mr. Prime Minister, is a bitch. Ask your friend Mengistu Haile Mariam.

To Washington DC area Ethiopians who flooded the State Department yesterday, thank you.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

After telling y'all to calm down a couple of days ago, today, for the first time, Meles made me angry. Yes, I am ashamed to say it, his combination of arrogance and idiocy got to me. But, after reading ET Wonkette, I'm much better! What a soothing way you have with words. I have calmed down, and I'm back to the reality that this arrogance is his achilles heel. Back to the struggle!

9:30 PM, November 09, 2005  
Anonymous Dina said...

Magic water cannons and invisible grenades- Kinky!

When protesters were shot in June Bereket Simon said that this was a last measure after firing teargas at the boulder-throwing protesters had failed… Boulders the size of two people’s heads (like what Mr. Bereket is walking around with…). So how come Ethiopian rioters can throw such huge stones? Anyway, back to the subject- teargas? None was seen and heard of until it was mentioned by our two-headed Monster of Information (demoted). Maybe it was magic, concocted by some voodoo doc that our dear EPRDF undoubtedly visits regularly to get astronomical readings on what bullshit they’ll get away with this lunar month.
Now Meles has been telling journalists in Germany that 5 grenades were thrown by the protesters at the police- they had time to count them huh? Not just that, but that the protesters were trying to disarm the police. Oh sure, they got that close although they were actually using sniper guns at long distance… Hmmmm, maybe those evil protesters had Inspector Gadget-like telescope arms. And not just that but these 5 grenades were thrown on 3 different days, by people like the 11 year old boy who was out playing ball –maybe the grenade was the ball? Well, whatever, he got a bullet in the chest. Or the 60 year old man who was trying to get home as quickly as possible after church- perhaps it was the church of the Holy Grenade? He got a bullet in the back (or back of his head- not too sure, but it was lethal either way). So what more will Meles get away with? As for water cannons- I didn’t see evidence of any, I was out on Wednesday shortly after it had cooled down in Beklobet and Ayer Tena, there were only stones and boulders (oh those easily flung things…) and blood on the streets. No water or any water-tank vehicle thingies. What enrages me most is that Meles and Bereket can so obviously lie and get away with it. Journalists were out seeing what was going on, they can testify (if only they had the principles and ethics) as to what was there: Goons with guns, stones, blood and boulders and what was not there: Water cannons, grenade-throwing hooligans, looting and guns in the hands of vandals.
One thing you notice about Meles’ communication skills with foreign journalists is that he acts as if he’s a mature man possessed of self-awareness and capacity for self-critical appraisal. Charming… so New Man, so Metrosexual, in touch with his feminise side. But his Amharic ETV persona is entirely devoid of charm, there he acts like some crazed Gestapo Officer who’s had to down a bottle of Valium and whip his dog to near-death before appearing on TV. Oooh! How masterful and manly! But what do you expect of a short bald dude with the Great African Rift Valley between his eyebrows? Well, Ethiopian people have sure been naughty- Ooh, yes Mr. Gestapo-man, give it to bad, bad naughty Ethiopia! We’ve been demanding that our votes be returned to us. That the opposition party members are freed or at least given a fair treatment in accordance with the laws and constitution of Ethiopia. Ooops! Did I just use the C word? That thing the EPRDF has been violating since they put it in place? They probably needed something tangible they could regularly violate without anyone asking questions about their sexual preferences… But then came the opposition parties taking this farce at face value and giving the EPRDF some credit by actually embarking on a totally fascinating and successful election campaign. Which gave hope to the people, for those of you who were around in Addis the last few months before the election might recall the vibrant, positive electricity of new opportunities and hopes that opened up in the people’s minds. The televised debates quenched the desperate thirst in everyone’s EPRDF- parched souls. It was good TV- probably the best ETV will ever air. Now these hopes lie shattered in pools of blood, with Meles and his troops jeering over the empty shell of a ravaged people- ONE people mind you, I don’t think their ethnic hate campaign was as successful as it could have been considering they put in 14 years of effort behind it, rubbing the wealth of their Regional state and people in the rest of Ethiopia’s face. In fact, when Eritrea set foot in Tigray in 1998 the whole of the country rose up like a whipped bull.
We now know for sure that the election was just a show for the west, maybe the west can at least keep its end of the bargain and do more than just slap the EPRDF lightly on its well-padded (with fat Dollar wads) behind. That probably just excites them… ehem, sorry to be so frivolous. Just reached that point of anger and despair where juvenile humour is the only way out. Meles is planning on getting the opposition leaders killed, by stewing them in prison for at least 10 years while a “trial” for treason goes on and on and on- only to have them killed slowly by the ignorance and abandonment of the west and the intellectual level of their environs. Lets hope that he won’t stay in power that long- even retrospective colonisation would be better…
I would not blame any Ethiopian sympathising more with Al Qaida now that they are experiencing the hypocrisy of their beloved USA and Europe first hand. This kind of thing is what bred the Taliban in the first place, remember Osama was once the US’ star pupil against the USSR.

3:16 AM, November 10, 2005  
Anonymous Yohannes said...


as the song says, if loving you is wrong, i don't want to be right. (trying to express myself like our p.m.) i emjoyed your post.

to the grenade question-- walta disinformation center has pictures of property damage, grenades and injured policemen. none of bereved mothers. i would think they'd had at least one just to be "fair and balanced." can you imagine taking pictures of grenades and saying that it was thrown by the stone throwers? i think eprdf thought that would justify shooting 14 y.o's in the head since last time the "they were throwing stones" line did not wash. the things is, grenades are traceable. and when forensic results come through, i will be a monkey's uncle if the grenades don't trace back to the eprdf's arsenal. it's not like the eprdf is beyond reproach now, is it?

like one wonq-ETers said, let's collect the evidence.

(yes. i watch CSI and 24)

9:24 AM, November 10, 2005  
Anonymous xaxitu said...

I love it when people walk the talk. A Columbia Alum actually took Sachs to task and cc'ed all the people who would make his knees quake. And she got a response that was fairly good. I will post it if anyone is interested.

1:19 PM, November 10, 2005  
Anonymous Buqaya said...

Yes, Xaxitu. Please post. Would be very curious to read Sach's response.

1:43 PM, November 10, 2005  
Anonymous xaxitu said...

This is the first response

Dear *****

I have certainly said nothing of the sort that you believe I said. I do
wish that you had simply asked me first.

I deplore the violence the same as you.

Last month I said publicly that I "pay my respects to those who have lost their lives in the struggle for democracy, both the fighters for freedom who toppled a despicable regime 14 years ago, and also the dozens of students and innocent bystanders who tragically and unnecessarily lost their lives several weeks ago when they were shot by security forces during protests in the nation's capital. There is no excuse for such loss of life; security
forces must be equipped with non-lethal means for riot and crowd control. And our students anywhere are our future."

The fact that security forces have shot again into the crowds is not acceptable. Aside from the heated charges and counter-charges of who has done what to whom and who has or has not provoked the violence, the government and its security forces should have been much better
prepared with non-lethal means to control unhappy crowds. The opposition leaders too should have been speaking out much more to keep their own followers peaceful and unarmed. There are many reports that people in the crowds fired upon the police. I do not know whether those reports are accurate, and as far as I know there has been no independent assessment to date.
Undoubtedly, though, there is responsibility required on all sides in a tense confrontation such as this, and more that both government and opposition can and should be doing much more to secure the peace.

That, by the way is the point that I've made all along. Ethiopia can not afford zero-sum politics, with each side making maximalist claims against the other. I receive startling emails from both sides of this conflict, each accusing the other side of the worst of the worst. Both sides making maximalist claims . . . and usually across ethnic lines. So much of the politics is underpinned by ethnic division, making the conflict all the more dangerous.

And please, do not for a moment believe that I am "looking the other way." I put in my efforts for Africa - and for Ethiopia -- around the clock, every day, to help as best as I can. I am not a politician in your country, and have no intention to be one. I have, instead, been a consistent and steadfast supporter of helping Ethiopians to get medical are,
health services, education, safe drinking water, and other things that your country and its people desparately need to survive and thrive, as they should and no doubt can.

Best wishes and thank you very much for writing.

I too dearly wish for the safe, secure, democratic, and prosperous future of Ethiopia,

Jeffrey Sachs

1:52 PM, November 10, 2005  
Anonymous xaxitu said...

And this is the final back and forth. For now.
I have blanked the name because I haven't recieved premission from the writer at this time.



I am traveling now, and so will check on the materials that you sent as soon as I can. Thank you.

If you read on in my statement that you quote, you will indeed see that I denounced the violence of last spring, and you would of course have noticed that I could not have denounced the recent violence since I made the statement that you quote more than two months ago -- and on that occasion spoke at length about the growing dangers in Ethiopia from extremism on many fronts. I also explained why, in my view, the politics need to become
inclusive, rather than winner-take-all. Now having said that then, and having written to you just a few hours ago that I shared your deploring the recent violence, I will say it again. And again if necessary.

I will also note for you that I receive many heartfelt assertions that accuse some of the opposition leaders of stoking violence and ethnic hatred. It appears that some of the spiraling unrest is partly, and dangerously, ethnically motivated on both sides. It is also widely believed that there are revanchists from the Mengistu era stoking some of the unrest.

The violence needs to end, the politics needs to open, and both Government and opposition need to work much harder to calm the vitriol of many of their followers.

As always, I will try to do my best, in whatever modest way I can, to help your country. That has been my pledge for many, many years, particularly as I've worked -- with at least a modicum of success -- to help extend basic health care and greater food supplies to the many who desperately need it.

I hope that you might somebody help this work as well.

Best regards, and best wishes,

Jeff Sachs

Sent from my BlackBerry Wireless Handheld

-----Original Message-----

Subject: RE: Letter to Prof. Sachs Statement on Ethiopia - CBS

Professor Sachs:

You recently made a public statement as follows:

"...Prime Minister, you have distinguished yourself as a one of our World's most brilliant leaders. I have often said that our many hours of discussion together are among the most scintillating that I have spent on the topics of economic development. I invariably leave our meetings enriched, informed, and encouraged about Ethiopia's prospects. Moreover, I know fully that you are deeply committed to peace, development, and the success of your

Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has a 14 year history of human rights violation and massacre fully documented by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and others. The violence in Ethiopia today is not new for Zenawi, it happened in the previous election where nobody dared to vote and it happened through out the last 14 years of his dictatorial ruling. I would not categorize such government as a fighter of freedom as you have in your email. Given his history, he may be one of the worst Ethiopia has ever seen.

Today, Meles Zenawi has complete control of arms in Ethiopia and is responsible for opening live ammunition on innocent unarmed bystanders and needs to be held accountable than receiving the above praise from a courageous leader like you. The security forces you mentioned are under his full command. The opposition forces have no arms and are in a
peaceful struggle for democracy and are entitled to call a peaceful strike to protest
what is reported by respected independent observes to be a rigged vote of the recent Ethiopian election. - these facts are documented despite numerous propaganda and strong lobbying by the Meles regime.

I sincerely applaud your tireless work in Africa, aid, development or otherwise. I know it takes a lot of courage and it is overwhelming to many of us - I am in the US and don't do anything close to what you do for Africa. However, I have several family members who feel strongly about progress in Africa and are engaged in aid, health, development and business work in Ethiopia after several years of schooling and training here in the US.

What I am sincerely asking is that you make a clear and public statement denouncing this government, which you have not done to-date. Your statement above is worrisome to me and has deeply disappointed many Ethiopians and friends of Ethiopia because we know you work tirelessly on Africa issues and because we expect much more from people like you. We feel it is time to call it out publicly and hold the perpetrators accountable. Otherwise,
yours statement above, if left alone, may be encouraging a government like Meles and others in Africa to continue cruelty. The EU and other election observers have made independent assessment and denounced Meles' actions and there are staggering data to support my claims (see attached). I have not seen any public statement from you that clearly and specifically
hold the Meles government accountable for his actions. How do you pay respect to the victims' families without taking a moral responsibility to name the perpetrators when you know who they are?

If you need any additional information, please let me know and I can provide. I have attached a report that I thought you will find useful.

Best regards,


2:00 PM, November 10, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello Wonqette,
I really admire you. To do this with a full time job and a kid, wow! Have you thought about pod casting? I hope some day soon we will get to hear you read your blogs. That would be wonderful!
Thanks for all you do.

2:30 PM, November 10, 2005  
Anonymous mahedere said...

thanks much for posting the letters. with all due respect to wonq's husband, i am begining to believe that nothing good comes from Harvard too. that someone with Sach's credentials can sing meles' "brilliant" mind is more evidence than we will ever need. he has also bought in the whole 'opposition forces are breeding ethnic hatred' bullshit. when speaking in sweden, Dr. Berhanu said that one of the biggest debates they had in forming cud was whether to include parties based on ethnicity. they decided not to because the accident of your birth should not be part and parcel of why you are struggling for democracy. yet, meles gets a pass when he throws around interwhame. i'm sick of it. to people like jeffrey sachs it's comfortable to see africa as a chronic case of tribalism. liberals jerf off to imagined 'underdogs.' meles fired people in 1991 STRICTLY based on ethnicity. how brilliant was that?

shit. i wasn't going to write to sach's. now i will.

3:11 PM, November 10, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

xaxitu, big thanks, big thanks!

My question is, Who the hell is making maximalist claims?!! We've got to stop being had by the EPRDF lobby and PR machine. CUD has been backtracking on its claims from day one.

CUD: Please do an investigation.
EPRDF: Yeah, you want an investigation, here is an investigation, and we get even more seats. Now go ...
CUD: Please do a proper one, pretty please.
EPRDF: Buzz off.
CUD: We'll do civil disobedience.
EPRDF: Try it.
CUD: Pretty please?
EPRDF: Buzz off.
CUD: Okay, okay, you win the election, just make the democracy better.
EPRDF: Buzz off.
CUD: Honk your horns folks.

These protests took place because the EPRDF refused to concede a single item to CUD while CUD conceded the election. In fact, the EPRDF, let alone concede, super-maximized its claims by taking more seats from the opposition, emasculating parliament, taking revenue from Addis govt., taking away the media, using the media for hate propaganda, arresting and killing opposition supporters, and closing CUD offices.

Wonqette, perhaps you can put it better than I can, but the usual 'both-sides' rhetoric just doesn't cut it here. And besides, it's not like two armed parties are in contest like Sudan or somewhere. CUD is an unarmed, young political party while the EPRDF has a whole security apparatus behind. You can't get more asymmetric, folks.

Of course, CUD is far from perfect. And of course its followers are all sorts. Perhaps the one CUD official should not have said 'Send them where they came from.' But, for heaven's sake, it's Ethiopia, an underdeveloped country. You've got people saying stuff about barefoot Amharas, Agames, Gallas, Baryas, all the time. CUD can't be accountable for the masses. But the EPRDF is the only party that officially uses hate speech - chauvinist and neftegna.

No, no, no, this 'both sides' cr*p has got to be put in its place. It's just laziness, too lazy to examine the evidence.

Let the EPRDF accept the eight points and govern. That's a civilized compromise.

4:43 PM, November 10, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I found the email exchange with Professor Sachs interesting. And he raises undeniable issues about the nature of politics in Ethiopia.

The primary responsibility for the current madness in Ethiopia falls on the EPRDF government. There is no if and but about it. Its indiscrinate killing of more than 40 people and the arrest of thousands, including children, clearly shows that this guys will stop at nothing to govern the country by force.

At the same time, I strongly beleive that moderate elements in the opposition have been silenced by the more exteme elements. In an atmosphere filled with name calling and bullying (in Addis as well as in Washington, D.C.)there was not any real debate about the merits of a gradualist approach. By persuing reckless tactics they fell into the traps of a ruling party which was set on reversing even the limited electoral losses it suffered (e.g. governing Addis)in the election.

11:27 PM, November 10, 2005  

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