Tuesday, April 25, 2006

'Never Again' to 'Yet, Again'

Darfur is probably not the sprightliest subject to discuss while breaking the Easter fast, but there you go. That’s politics for you. It insinuates itself even in between ambitious gurshafulls of delectable doro weT.

Darfur came about because we had started talking about Rwanda—yet another rosy subject that should not be discussed at a celebration marking the resurrection of our Lord. But there you go.


I ran across an entry from a journal I kept about this time in 1994 that I oft time wish I had not kept. Some of my entries are frantic epistles about the Rwandan genocide we were all aware was becoming an absolute horror.

Most of us, deservedly, excoriated the Clinton administration for its absolute incompetence in handling Rwanda.

At a State Department briefing, spokesperson Christine Shelley is asked, "How many acts of genocide does it take to make genocide?"

"That's just not a question that I'm in a position to answer."

"Well, is it true that you have specific guidance not to use the word 'genocide' in isolation, but always to preface it with these words 'acts of'?"

"I have guidance which I try to use as best as I can. There are formulations that we are using that we are trying to be consistent in our use of. I don't have an absolute categorical prescription against something, but I have the definitions. I have phraseology which has been carefully examined and arrived at as best as we can apply to exactly the situation and the actions which have taken place ... "

She said that not in April 1994, but on June 10, 1994. Close to 800,000 people had already been slaughtered.

When you read the chronology of events of the Rwandan genocide, you are left with a sense of disgust and shame. Sure the West failed, but as Africans, we failed even more. Whatever the West could have done, it could not make us not want to machete our neighbors to death because of something as inconsequential as ethnicity and color of skin.

As Africans, we failed.

One of the biggest failures among us was Kofi Annan, an African, who was warned about the impending genocide on January, 11, 1994. His response to the cable from Major General Roméo Dallaire will always remind us that an African failed us first.

Annan is on the second genocide of his watch. Even though the Bush administration learnt from Clinton and was early to call Darfur ‘genocide’, and although Condi Rice was dispatched to Sudan to discuss this matter (both much more than what Clinton ever did), Darfur is a reminder that we as Africans are failing Africa more than the West can possibly.

Annan chronicled his proven wretched leadership acumen in a January 2006 op-ed in the Washington Post, Darfur Descending. It reads like the mumblings of a pathetic house negro comforted by small gains and disinclined to take a firm stance lest he lose his Sutton Place social standing.

You want a reason why the West doesn’t care about Darfur? Because Africans don’t care about Darfur. We pointed at the West the last time. And we are doing it again.

By August 2005, an estimated 370,000 Darfuri had died. That figure hovers at about 400,000 today. Over two million have been displaced, and three million suffer from dire food shortages—all because they have dark skin. They are being persecuted by an African nation whose hubris has been augmented by an African Union and an African head of the august United Nations.

After 400, 000 people dead, Annan has this sanguine assessment:

There were other positive signs. The U.N. Security Council had referred the situation to the International Criminal Court and had decided in principle to apply targeted sanctions to individuals who could be identified as responsible for the atrocities of the past two years.

Has decided “in principle”?? Sound familiar? I was wondering where Prime Minister Meles got that wording.

Despite a chronic funding crisis, A.U. troops in Darfur are doing a valiant job.

No, they are not. The African Union went in with such limited mandate into Darfur that it barely rises above Meter Maid status in law enforcement. Just yesterday, more Darfuri were displaced and we saw on TV AU troops take down stories and drive away into the sunset. The AU has extended its pitiable stay in Darfur until September, and that has delighted the Sudanese government. Whatever treaty it signed in Addis to entertain replacing AU forces with UN forces is so laden with preconditions that the likelihood of UN peacekeepers in Darfur is no likelihood at all.

But Annan is floating on Cloud Nine.

On Jan. 12, the African Union decided to renew the mission's mandate until March 31, while expressing support, in principle, for a transition to a U.N. operation this year.

[Emphasis mine.]

Shut the fuck up. Seriously. STFU!

Eric Reeves has an excellent analysis that is a must read, African Union Decision on Darfur Mission Fails ‘Rwanda Test.”

Knowing full well the consequences of leaving humanitarian personnel and vulnerable civilians without protection, the international community has nonetheless disingenuously welcomed the African Union decision to retain control of the Darfur mission---suggesting that somehow this decision represents either a triumph of tactful diplomacy or, at worst, the innocuous preservation of a status quo that couldn’t be fundamentally changed in any event.

Such dishonesty will be recorded by history as the defining moment of the
Darfur genocide, inaugurating what will become the greatest cycle of human destruction. It no longer matters what happens in Abuja (Nigeria): peace has been irretrievably lost on the ground and only exhaustion through destruction will bring an end to the killing and dying.

And as if he were told “insert half-assed platitude here” Annan whimpers himself to a soft landing:

Finally, and above all, much stronger pressure must be brought on all parties -- the rebels as well as the government -- to observe the cease-fire and commit themselves to the Abuja peace talks with a sense of urgency. The current delays are inexcusable; they cost lives every day. Those negotiating must be reminded of their personal responsibility.

Excuse me. 400,000 people have died. When do we start getting a little less trite?

Darfur happened because we, as Africans, were unable to stand up to a government that thinks nothing of raiding and raping its own people.

Yes, and I do hold Kofi Annan responsible because his tenure as Secretary General of the UN has been particularly bad for Africa. This was our one shot at this kind of high visibility leadership, hope that “one of us” could knock some sense into a continent that is on a fast track to self destruction. We looked for moral leadership, and instead what we got was a tragically wobbly and fluctuant chief who had two, count ‘em, two genocides under his belt. Maybe after the carnage hits a million people Mr. Annan will amble back to Sudan to offer a “oops we did it again” speech, the same speech he gave in Kigali on May 7, 1998. He can just do a search and replace “Rwanda” with “Darfur”:

The world must deeply repent this failure. Rwanda's tragedy was the world's tragedy. All of us who cared about Rwanda, all of us who witnessed its suffering, fervently wish that we could have prevented the genocide. Looking back now, we see the signs which then were not recognized. Now we know that what we did was not nearly enough--not enough to save Rwanda from itself, not enough to honor the ideals for which the United Nations exists. We will not deny that, in their greatest hour of need, the world failed the people of Rwanda ..."

Sure, the West can give more money, more aid, more troops. But what the West cannot do is make us not want to kill each other. We do that to ourselves with the kind of efficiency and adeptness of a well-run death factory.

I am sick of it. And I am sickened that the Ethiopian government has been using ‘genocide’ so lightly and cynically to silence its opponents. As Africans we should be enraged that the Ethiopian government has cheapened the meaning of genocide. When the Prime Minister of Ethiopia casually and appallingly lobbed the charge of “interhamwe” at its unarmed opposition, the African Union stayed mum.

If we don’t take genocide seriously, why should the rest of the world? The Prime Minister has yet to apologize for his gratuitous showboating, and has in fact repeated the charges. Yet we point the finger at DC and ho-hum what’s in our backyard.

On Sunday, April 30, thousands will march in DC to bring awareness to the situation in Darfur. The world seems to be saying, “Never again.” The whole world, except Africa.

Sign the petition. Tell a friend.

Enough is enough.


Wow. Who would have thunk it. This is the 100th post on Weichegud. A warm thank you to Gooch and all the contributors who were too shy to come forward as contributors for this milestone.

Um... Happy Easter?

Friday, April 21, 2006

Melkam Fasika Wegenoch

To an Ethiopia whose future is bright.

May we have a blessed Easter, my friends.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

A time to patronize, a time to condescend; a time to sing pretty, a time to put on rose-tinted glasses. A time to…

When former U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia, Aurelia E. Brazeal, left her position, she gave what must be singularly the most labyrinthine farewell speech ever. It takes incredible malleability to dodge her many a tightly wound ball of wanton platitude, and just when you think you’ve tiptoed away relatively intact, ka-splat! A freshly brewed concoction of nugatory humana-humana awaits you.

Let me tell you what ordinary Ethiopians tell me.

…And dodge…

They tell me that as parents, they do not want their children to live through the violence and upheavals that they experienced. They tell me politicians should respect one another, talk civilly to one another, and focus on issues important to the people, not focus on tearing each other down.

… and dodge…

They tell me Ethiopian society historically has not valued compromise and accommodation but yet they yearn for these traits for their children and for their country’s leaders.


They tell me they want the political parties to accept election results, join Parliament, and work from within the system.

… double whoosh…

They value their democratic institutions and the constitution, and they want political parties to do the same. They want peace. They want wise leaders.

[Le Phew. Le pant. Le phew. Le pant.] Incoming…!

Whether it is to stay alive is your decision. Whatever the case, it is your responsibility. As I depart Ethiopia, I give you my trust with the bird because it is still alive, the bird of democracy. I can say look, how lovely is this thing you have done –– together. I hope all political parties will take their seats in Parliament and participate in government under the Constitutional framework. Then we can all go see what the end will be.


But then it becomes hard to be sardonic coz Ms. Brazeal quotes negro spirituals and the bible. Gulp. Can’t mess with negro spirituals and the bible.

But here’s what I thought was the most interesting part of the speech. In envisioning the features that will propel Ethiopia towards prosperity, Ms. Brazeal states:

These central features are: a multiparty system here to stay; a legal constitution and institutions to frame debates, even about how to change both; economic reforms to come – and I personally urge faster reforms – as Ethiopia races to join the global economy; a vigorous press and a social climate that increasingly promotes free expression – another area in which I hope there are great strides in the near future; and a development agenda that promises grassroots results. These are features that, if carried through forcefully and positively, prefigure a redemptive future and national renewal.

A multi party system? A legal constitution? Institutes to frame debates?

Economic reforms “to come”? A vigorous press and a social climate that increasingly promotes free expression?

I wonder what Ms. Brazeal is thinking these days. I wonder if Ethiopia is but a distance memory to her.

Soooooooooooooooo, okay. Dealing with the EPRDF on a prolonged basis is bound to make you read the scriptures if only to keep a tight reign on your sanity.

But how the hell do you explain Vicki Huddleston, the brand spanking new Chargé d'affaires? Short answer: you don’t.

VOA Amharic had a fascinating interview with Ms. Huddleston last Thursday. Even if you don’t speak Amharic listen to the English snippets.

Fast forward to minute 8:51. Ms. Huddleston is quite perturbed that the main opposition coalition leadership has decided not to join the parliament without eight preconditions. Picky, picky, picky. And what, you ask, are those drama queen preconditions? Are they demanding extra stretch limos to shuttle them to and fro? Access to the VIP lounge at EPRDF Central.

Don’t be silly. The VIP lounge can’t be open to ‘anti-peace’ elements. Here are the eight preconditions:

1. The legal system must be able to operate independently without any coercion from the ruling party.

2. All forms of media should be free and available to all political parties.

3. The Election Board needs to be restructured and be able to operate independently

4. All political prisoners should be released.

5. Opposition party offices that had been closed should be opened.

6. Repression and intimidation of opposition party members must be stopped.

7. An independent commission to be established to investigate the
June 8, 2005 killings of innocent Ethiopian.

8. Ensure the police and armed forces do not favor and take sides with the ruling party.

They killed Kenny. Those bastards! Where do they think they live? In a democracy?!

Ms. Huddleston is vexed.

And what I really want to say is for democracy to succeed you have to be involved. Change and democracy comes from within. It can’t be imposed from the outside.

Ehhhhhhhh? Did the Bush administration have a change of policy here? Sheesh. First Fukuyama now Huddleston. It’s hard being a neocon these days.

[Translation to Amharic starts. Re-translation mine.]

So we at the United States embassy, the EU and donor nation ambassadors are hopeful that the opposition groups will participate in and be part of the democracy movement.

Interviewer: To critics who say that the process has not allowed for all CUD members to participate equally, Ms. Huddleston quotes extensively from the bible verse that there is time for everything, and asserts that her main message is that democratization should not be stalled.

Oh, brother. How can you counter bible quotes with snide remarks? Not fair!

Ms. Huddleston: Now, nearly a year after the elections of May it is time to embrace the democratic process to move forward…

[translation begins] It is time, for the sake of the well being of the country, to bring together all opposition parties in the move forward to democracy.

Here’s a funny story. The CUD swept all but one seat in Addis. Awwwwkward. The EPRDF didn’t miss a beat transferring the Addis Ababa police under the federal government authority. And, a shifty bunch the whole lot of them, also transferring a lot of the tax based income from the city council to the (three guesses) the federal government. So basically, whoever takes over Addis has to find um, new ways to fill up the coffers. I suggest a bake sale… accompanied by a performance of “For everything there is time: the musical.”

The US Embassy really, weeeaaaly wanted the CUD to take over the administration of the city. That way we can say we are moving towards democracy.

Slight problem. The Mayor elect of the city? In jail. Other members of the council? In jail. Chairman of the CUD? Vice chairman of the CUD? Secretary of the CUD? Elected MPs? Jail… jail… jail anddddd jail.

At this point those inured with pessimism would probably start thinking, “Well, OK. Maybe release the opposition members so they can join the parliament?” Hmmm?


The EPRDF and the US Embassy recruited the few, the brave, the unjailed and ‘organized’ them to created a new party… name it… let’s say… I dunno… CUD. The mission: get 70 of the 138 elected members to sign a petition…There, you got yerself a democracy. Now go. Get 70 people.

Ms. Huddeltston, how do you explain this new form of democracy? People seem… rankled. The leaders of the CUD, the ones in jail, say this is bogus. Especially when you see it in light of the fact that CUD offices in Addis and all over the country have been… what do you call it... shut down, and elected administrators are being harassed by the government. ‘Splain to us, this new democracy.

When Nelson Mandela was put in prison, the movement to democracy did not stop. People on the outside continued to participate in the political process. We should remember that when Nelson Mandela was released he took over power.

No she didn’ go there. Oh but she went. And then inched further away from us…

A process does not end because people are detained. A process must continue… there is a continuation. As it says in the bible, (Ecclesiastes 3:2) “For everything there is a season. A time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; It also says there is “a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak.”

A time to stop patronizing? Is there a time for that?

But back to this business of creating a ‘new CUD’. Nah. Ms. Huddleston takes umbrage, and how.

There is no attempt to create a new CUD but to work within the framework of the existing CUD. I believe there are a lot of brave men and women within CUD, and we should we proud of them because they are trying to have their voices heard for the people in Addis Ababa who voted for them.

Brave… brave… brave!? She did say brave, right? Oh this is way highly spooksville-ish.

When has this ever worked? Venezuela? Iraq? Where?

The trouble is, the US and the EU did not stop their feet when the EPRDF put the opposition in jail. It was the dumbest move ever by the EPRDF and donor nations thought that indulging the EPRDF a little more, and then a little more would temper EPRDF’s power lust. Instead of drawing a line in the sand, donor nations asked the Ethiopian people to “please stop moving so the EPRDF isn’t forced to hit you.” They scrambled to come up with a patched up semblance of democracy. Really? Donor nations thought it was a good idea to fund a ‘non fake’ fake CUD and have people other than those elected run the city? Rock on.

You might gasp at the incongruity, but it’s what’s happening in Iraq with Ibrahim al-Jaafari. And if it is happening where American boys are dying, it’s gonna happen in poor little Ethiopia. The question is, when will donor nations learn? Funding a desperately corrupt PLO? How did that work out? The thing is, this is not just bad policy for Ethiopia. It’s bad policy for the U.S. and donor nations. Now they are mired in finding a graceful exit strategy for the EPRDF because people are having none of this bullshit. And it’s going to be messy.

Each passing day the leaders of the opposition spend in jail legitimizes them more and more. Trying to go around them to create a new CUD? It’s a veritable gift to the CUD. CUD, write these people a thank you letter. And if sexy little Lidetu wants to redeem himself, he’ll get his toothbrush and camp out by the gates of Qalliti and beg to be arrested.

But Ms. Huddleston has not flung her last monotonous bromide. Part two was on Friday.

We know there are problems. But if we want the political process to work, participation is essential.

I ain’t m no political genius. Shit, I ain’t no kind of genius. But what are donor nations suggesting? That the leaders spend 20-something years in prison to become even bigger icons of democracy—Nelson Mandela style? The way its going, the US and EU will be telling us that democratization has commenced when the EPRDF finds the prisoners guilty of ‘genocide and treason’, but graciously concedes not to sentence them to death. “Look. We didn’t kill them, okay? Now can we go back to democratically democratizing demon-cracy?

Celllll-a-bration now, c’mon!

Asked if the new, non-fake fake CUD has the blessing of those in prison, Ms. Huddleston tells us that they are scurrying to get approval. Get off the edge of your seats, boys and girls, the CUD leaders were having none of that.

Ms. Huddleston wants to say something about those in prison.


There has been much hate, and there has been much violence, and now I think it is the time to nurture reconciliation and peace, because if all sides should put aside their differences, if they agree to talk in the spirit of forgiveness it will open up a means for the release of the prisoners. And not just for their release but also for a chance at strong democracy and development in Ethiopia.

One more slobberingly sanctimonious shibboleth (ha? You like?) for the road?

Well, as you know everybody would love to see the opposition and the CUD and the leaders of civil society out of jail. But we don’t know when that’s going to happen. What we want will not always come to fruition. So we have to create conditions that will allow their release.

Now that’s hot.

Question: How does encouraging the formation of a new group outside of the leadership to take over the leadership of a political party allow for the release of the CUD leaders? Seriously?

Okay, so it was time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance. Is it time for a reality check yet?

So you might be wondering… how did that whole exercise in democracy work out? How did the non-fake fake CUD thing work out?

The deadline for the CUD to accept the administration of Addis Ababa without any preconditions passed yesterday. Signatures of 70 elected officials were necessary. By deadline only 67 had signed on. So close. Out of that, five withdrew their names.

You mean to say people weren’t playing nice? Yaw, Mary. You betcha they didn’t.

So… what next? Here’s my prediction so when it comes true I will be greeted with flowers and candy.

Simple. Ms. Huddleston and the EPRDF will come to the conclusion that 62 is really like 70, so for the sake of democracy, the new number needed to take over Addis Ababa will be… 20. You’re welcome, Ethiopia.

I am a strong believer in working within the system. Heck, I am a b--lack woman living in the United States. A successful b-b-lack woman. If nothing else, you learn to work within the system.

It’s been nearly a year since Ethiopians went out and patiently waited in line for 12-18 hours to vote. They did that against the tremendous subtle and impudent pressures from the Ethiopian government. In the countryside, away from the prying eyes of the international media, Ethiopians died protecting ballot boxes. Ethiopian peasants gave up access to fertilizer (strictly supplied by government-affiliated companies) to vote against a party they knew did not represent them. Opposition parties agreed to the rules of engagement despite the odds stacked against them. They engaged in the elections because they knew working within a broken system was a step forward to a better Ethiopia.

Consequently, and since Ms. Huddleston is new to this job so she might not know, Ethiopian youth were gunned down for speaking up for democracy. And who knows how many countless of them died in concentration camps and in the countryside. Ethiopian mothers, women Ms. Brazeal talks so eloquently about as agents of change, saw their children being riddled with bullets in front of them because they never thought this government would inflict on them what its predecessor inflicted on their mothers.

And still the Ethiopian people are asked to compromise just a little bit more. For fourteen years they’ve lived with the real Prime Minister Zenawi, not the one manicured and gussied up to please fawning foreigners. And on May 2005, they said enough.

So to lecture Ethiopians who have lived under these circumstances about compromise is a bit audacious. Ethiopians have their spirituals, too. They are looking for the same great civil rights movement that propelled change in these great United States. When women and African Americans were finally allowed to vote, would Ms. Brazeal have settled for measures that would only count our votes as one half? Would she have compromised? Would any of our abolitionist heroes have ‘compromised’ if the South offered half-freedom to slaves? So why are half measures okay for Ethiopians?

At a certain point, we have to acknowledge a broken system. Ordinary Ethiopians can’t be used as cannon fodder for a fake democracy. Ethiopians voted this government out of office. The opposition has offered a unity government with a government that refuses to leave power. Now, that’s compromise. CUD keeps playing the EPRDF because the EPRDF is unable to think practically. Ethiopians, it appears, were looking for more than shiny buildings and five-star hotels.

Ethiopundit had two eerily foreshadowing articles on this:

Washington’s Lethal Delusion of Stability and No More Appeasement .

Sem-ina-werq, a blogger from Ethiopia, has the scoop, as well as a “Vicki Watch.”

Redeem Ethiopia totally debunks my theory that the US might be finally waking up.

All who live in tyranny and hopelessness can know: the United States will not ignore your oppression, or excuse your oppressors. When you stand for your liberty, we will stand with you.

Sixty years of Western nations excusing and accommodating the lack of freedom in the Middle East did nothing to make us safe -- because in the long run, stability cannot be purchased at the expense of liberty.

- President Bush.

Monday, April 17, 2006

"You think this is progress?"

There were two things my grandfather used to find intolerable whenever he visited us in the US: people who ate and walked in public; and Ethiopians of the Orthodox faith who didn’t go to church. He had to be physically restrained on his last visit to DC after seeing an Ethiopian youngster sporting a Lalibela T-shirt and walking down U Street eating pizza… and talking on a cell phone.

“You people think this is progress,” my sisters told me he hissed. “This is backwardness.”

Sounds about right.

The man wouldn’t know how to mince words if it came with a manual. I remember him excoriating my father for not taking us to the local Ethiopian church in our city. “You are trading the faith of your country for ‘Meet the Press’?” he deadpanned. But one thing my father inherited from his father was stubbornness, and no amount of sentimental heft was going to guilt trip him into taking us to church.

On the first night my grandfather came to visit us in the States soon after we settled here, he passed an edict: all of us kids would be going to church every Sunday. My mother was assigned chauffer duty. My father kept reading the paper.

So every Sunday, my siblings and I would wake up at 7 a.m., dress in Ethiopian clothes (we girls had to cover our heads) and look longingly at our father who would maliciously be cooking a grand breakfast. Since Ethiopians don’t eat breakfast before qurban (Holy Communion) we’d sit around the kitchen table watching our father’s purposeful whisking of big, brown eggs. He never came out and tempted us with breakfast, but he would shoot extremely affected looks of fleeting benignancy our way. The passive aggressiveness would break only when our grandfather would emerge, seemingly out of nowhere, to collect us kids and march us off to the garage. And almost always, under his breath, he’d murmur, “SliTanE meslotal abatachu.” (“Your father thinks that’s progress.”)

We grew to love going to church with our grandfather. At that time, parishioners of the Ethiopian church practiced their faith in a tiny room rented from a ridiculously WASPy Presbyterian church. There were probably 20 of us on a good day. Before we entered the tiny room, my grandfather would help us remove our shoes and adjust our neTela (shawls). He would bend down to kiss the hardwood floors of the tiny room. He gave the room the same deference he would the mightiest of cathedrals. He sometimes let us girls sit with him in the men’s section. Mesmerized, we would spend the entire length of the liturgy trying to mimic his moves.

On the ride back home, our grandfather taught us the history of the Ethiopian Orthodox faith, and it became our favorite part of going to church.

My grandfather died four years ago, a week before Ethiopian Easter. We were all hoping he’d hang on to see Easter, to celebrate the most revered Holy Day in the Ethiopian church. He died not breaking the fast even though he was in considerable pain.

On the second anniversary of his death, my sisters and I went to Ethiopia. Our grandfather wanted to be buried in the village he grew up in. We made it through the two hour trip from Addis in complete silence.

We reached our grandfather’s grave and were surprised by how well kept it was. Someone had planted flowers by it, and the headstone sparkled in the mid morning sun. My sisters and I read and re-read the engraving on his headstone.

It is a small village, where my grandfather is buried. A kid passed by us. He ran away when we tried talking to him. Soon he came back, this time with his mother in tow.

Emmama Biftu. She was tall and imposing. Nothing about her expression was welcoming or accommodating. Her strides were decisive, as if each step towards us meant victory to the people. I remember thinking how I so didn’t need a meddlesome matron in my life at that particular moment.

By the time Emmama Biftu reached us we were dutifully intimidated. She wasn’t bashful about checking us out head to toe before she lobbed her first words.

Her lips reminded me of sandpaper. She wore a scarf on her head, but wisps of beautiful hair had managed to escape the stern grip of the scarf, and the faint breeze made them dance gracefully by her nape. Her face was thin, her nose severe and the dark circles around her eyes almost softened her face. She held her son’s hands with the fierce zeal of an Ethiopian mother. The little boy hid behind her, but occasionally he’d peer out and stare at us with his big, intense, grown up eyes.

I expected her voice to be shrill and acrid. Instead it was soft and guarded. She greeted us in Oromiffa. Our expression told her we only spoke Amharic. She said hello to us in Amharic, and I was certain I detected a trace of irritability. Emmama Biftu wanted to know who we were. The niceties were done with.

My younger sister and I looked toward our older sister in a mute appeal for reassurance and, silently, she agreed to take the lead on this. She administered a strained smile at Emmama Biftu without really looking at her, and told her we were just visiting our grandfather’s grave.

Emmama Biftu’s strict jaw line relaxed. It was the first and merest hint of welcome. She asked us where we lived. We told her. It disinterested her profoundly. She bent down and removed a stray twig from our grandfather’s grave. It’s high noon, she told us. We shouldn’t be at a graveside at high noon. We’ll come with her to her house for lunch.

We walked out of the church compound. Emmama Biftu pointed to a small building by the gate. “Your grandfather had that built.” She said it with the casualness of a weary tour guide pointing out his umpteenth monument. We stopped dead in our track. “For the children. So they can learn the alphabet.”

My sisters and I walked to the stone building. It had one window. The door was painted bright blue. There was one desk inside but no chairs. The blackboard was smudgy and worn. Someone had painstakingly painted the walls with murals of angels. My younger sister started crying.

Emmama Biftu waited for us by the door. We walked to her house in silence.

Her house was modest and neat. Large black and white pictures of young men flanked the wall in her tiny living room. The little boy scampered to the other room. We were motioned to sit down. Emmama Biftu went to the back. We slunk ourselves in the cushions of her well-preserved sofa.

By the time Emmama Biftu came out with a piping bowl of shrro and gomen, a stack of injera and a tray of drinks, other people had joined us. It was obvious they all knew or knew of our grandfather. Emamma Biftu kept producing more food, guests kept arriving. Soon, it was a party. An old woman took my younger sister’s hands and started kissing it. “You are your grandfather,” she told my sister. My sister tried not to cry.

All through lunch I was wondering how it was that I knew so little about my grandfather. He never told us about the school or asked us to help. He was perceptibly well loved, but I never took him to be a ‘pillar of the community’ type.

I needed to ask about him, but I didn’t want to miss a second of what was organically unfolding in Emmama Biftu’s living room. For the first time in my life I sat back and let moments unfold in their own time. It didn’t matter how Ato so-and-so knew my grandfather, or why the woman on my left kept wiping her tears whenever our eyes clashed. I was happy in the moment, something I had not felt in a while. As the afternoon progressed and Emmama Biftu flitted about trying to serve coffee, the conversation was no longer about my grandfather. People talked about everyday life. We talked about our children and husbands. They didn’t care that it had taken us a couple of years to make it to our grandfather’s grave.

At one point the little boy (he turned out to be Emmma Biftu’s grandson) was sitting on my lap and I was letting him play with my cell phone.

It was almost twilight when we left. Emmama Biftu walked us to the car. I summoned up the courage to ask her who was taking care of our grandfather’s grave. “All of us,” she said after a long pause. “All of us take care of him. It’s not just one person’s job to take care of the man."

Before we got in the car, I tried to slip a wad of cash in Emmama Biftu’s hand. She looked at me sadly and pushed my hand away. “No one will accept your money,” she said. She didn’t sound cruel or injured. Just matter of fact. And I could hear my grandfather’s voice in my heart. “You think that is progress?”

The longer we stay away from Ethiopia, the more we forget just how much kindness there is in Ethiopia. To Emmama Biftu, taking care of the granddaughters of a man she respected was visceral. Kindness was not attached to reciprocity, and it didn’t come with a big smile and overbearing hospitality. Kindness was matter of fact.

The politics of Ethiopia often blinds me from the fundamentals, and once in a while I need reminding that Ethiopia is not just politics. There is organic beauty that passes you by if you pepper it with questions and logic. That’s the thing about Ethiopia: even in the midst of poverty, there is uncompromised splendor. Not the “We come from Kings” kind of splendor, but the kind that puts knots in your stomach and makes you want to do whatever it takes to make Ethiopia better.

Yesterday we went to church early, and on the drive back I tried to remember the stories my grandfather told me. I tried to remember for my son.

Friday, April 14, 2006

How, um, NOT to silence the ET Blogverse

You can’t masticate on organically-grown chat in peace these days without another Ethiopian blog harshing your mellow… or boosting the buzz , depending on where you stand politically.

I have a theory about the mushrooming ETblogverse.

Most of us have been frustrated by the lack of Ethiopian bloggers from Ethiopia, and all of a sudden the Ethiopian government deports/orders to leave/ makes thuggish gestures towards ‘Addis Ferenjie’, an anonymous European blogger in Addis Abeba, and whachu got? A veritable home grown ET blogging outbreak.

I wonder what happens at EPRDF Central after some ersatz paper shuffler comes up with the brilliant idea to deport/’encourage to leave’ a salty, saturnine Euro chick on a mission? Does he get a promotion? Does he become the Chargé at the DC embassy? The ambassador to London?

So now Addis Ferenjie is agitated and back in Europe … and talking to organizations such as FIDH - International Federation of Human Rights leagues, International Commission of Jurists Human Rights Watch , World Council of Churches , World Organization against Torture and Association for the Prevention of Torture on EPRDF malfeasances. Good job, boys. Way to silence AF.

She, as I, is disappointed by yet another ‘convenient’ alliance with some blah blah ‘patriotic front’ whose ‘heroism’ is broadcast without scrutiny on some Ethiopian websites. Sweetmotherofchrist, will it ever end?

Says AF:

Armed struggle is a reality and THE main subject during my conversations with Ethiopians in Diaspora. We all fear guerilla will only bring a new dictator, many express doubts about the newly-created or older fronts, the reliability of their leaders, their attitude towards democracy. Activists say supporting the “Arbenoch Ginbar” is not compatible with a successful lobbying in Europe or US, an analysis I quite agree with. The fact that Eritrea is obviously financing some of those groups is truly disturbing, too. Notwithstanding this general feeling, temptation is strong and respectable and rational members of the community are now whispering: “This is the only solution that remains”. Freedom Fighters are likely to receive funds from expatriates soon.

I am appalled things reached that point, a massive repression on the government’ side combined with indifferent West‘s apathy have built the conditions of bloody conflicts and savage murders… again.

Preach on, sistah.

Nazret.com was swift in finding a new blogger from Ethiopia, an actual Ethiopian. Meet Urael. In one of the most intriguing lamentations ever, Urael narrates what Addis Abebans go through whenever Prime Minister Meles needs to travel from the Palace (“the bunker”) to the airport. (Apparently our fearless leader doesn’t do leader-ly things such as, let’s say, appear in public.)

The first thing you notice is that federali are posted, armed with an AK47 almost every 100 meters from the bunker up to Bole Airport and side roads. They sit or walk and wait. Unarmed assistants are brought in and at a certain moment parking on the route is forbidden. Cars that stop are summand to drive on and as time goes by the parking ticket girls and boys are send out to find the owners of the remaining vehicles. Drunk and chat intoxicated dwellers are ordered to move ahead sometimes with a treat or a push. The single car left is opened by force and pushed away. Then traffic starts to diminish and disappears. All is quiet and remains so at least 20 minutes.

The officers with radios instruct the soldiers. The public is forced not to walk on the street side of the walking area. A federali car rushes by, the last inspection. A BMW races through the route with big, head shaved, sunglass wearing baboons in it, watching around. These must be the experts.

Silence..... then motorcycles with their blue lights on and sirens, two BMW with similar baboons and then 5 limousines all with blackened windows and followed by another [pair] of BMW's and motorcycles rush by. If I remember correctly it used to be 3 limousines in the past, so security has increased recently, or the paranoia of course.

After that we still can enjoy the quietness for five minutes and then traffic appears again, the soldiers are picked up with trucks and life returns to normal.

It begs the question, is the Prime Minister planning on living in Ethiopia after he resigns? What kind of life does he think he’ll lead? At least in Zimbabwe he can be shuttled to Mengistu’s retreat and the two can lament about their good old days.

Seminnawerq, is yet another yet another new Ethiopian blogger from Addis who has published a smuggled letter from Ato Muluneh Eyuel, the imprisoned CUD Secretary. Ato Muluneh has been thrown into solitary confinement. Why? He refused to take off a pro—CUD t-shirt and insisted on speaking to his family in a language other than Amharic. Holdthephone. Whatever happened to the EPRDF being a champion of “nations and nationalities”? Have some Amhara nefTeNa imperial revanchists (© Jeffrey Sachs) infiltrated the EPRDF? Here is the letter and a powerful
picture of Ato Muluneh being shuttled from the courts to jail.

Seminnawerq is also dismayed at the formation of a new “Fake CUDP”, presumably backed by the EPRDF, consisting of the unjailed members of the CUDP. VOA Amharic interviewed (fast forward to 12:40 minutes) one of the leaders of the new, fake CUDP on Monday. Ato Ayele Chanisso, poor guy… could not quite get around to explaining how this new (“reorganized”) organization could take over administration of Addis. The conventional wisdom is that the EPRDF will then claim that the opposition is running Addis. Poor EPRDF. It must take considerable effort to be this witless.

Scoot up, ET-blogistas, Adebabay wants to sit. In “Recreating CUD” Adebabay contends that “EPRDF and the US embassy in Addis are busy cooking to RECREATE a new CUD in the image of the popular CUD.” Oh, Vicki Huddleston. She’s so becoming the Martha Stewart of Ethiopian politics— tie a big, red bow on a log of crap, smile stiffly and call it “a good thing.” Adebabay elaborates:

Like Alien gods 1, the US also can not read the reality and accept it for long. They know the fake CUD can not represent Addis legitimately. Further more, they know and finally acknowledge the significance of the issue of jailed leaders. It is not only about the leaders themselves. It is also about the whole political process of the county.

Satisfy my Soul [Ego] doesn’t blog often enough to satisfy our yearning for dead on political satire, but when he does… o’m’g! Egoportal’s non-Daily Recipe : Revolutionary Terrorism a la Meles is hands down one of his best pieces. What a mind. What a scribe.

The best newcomer to all this, though, is CoffeeChilliSun who for no reason at all I am thinking is a Returnee. Think Like a Top Class Athelete is her salient analysis of post-EPRDF Ethiopia.

How can we, as citizens of Ethiopia, make sure that we drive the next government to work for us, using the riches of this country for the greater good of all in a manner that doesn’t denude the country and degrade the resources for generations to come?

CoffeeChilliSun gets the “Best description of the EPRDF” since Ethiopundit’s unapologetic missive, “There is no rule of law or civilized standards of behavior, indeed, wearing suits and ties while sipping tea with pinkies extended before talking of Parliaments and Courts does not distinguish Ethiopia’s leaders from barbarian warlords trading on tribalism and blood” (Mommy!):

However a tyrant of the Ethiopian variety is not just a Chiraq who sheds blood and instills overt terror of the Nazi variety- he also knows how to give the impression of granting some liberties based on apparently civil negotiations and generous statesmanship.

… It is a bit like a manipulative, passive-aggressive husband- if he marries a woman used to being battered daily by her father she will not mind the “lighter”, subliminal physical and psychological terror he lets loose on her occasionally.


But unlike most of [cough!] us, CofChilSun is looking beyond EPRDF bashing.

Ethiopians in cities, towns and abroad have even better awareness about democracy and what constitutes a truly democratic state. It is up to us to ensure that people know that democracy and a new freedom don’t mean bloody revenge acts against those of the old regime, that destroying infrastructure put in place by the EPRDF doesn’t hurt Meles in any way, that a relapse into apathy and snide resistance is not conducive to a new beginning.

Use your womanly wiles to hammer it home, Cof…

Translated into modern Ethiopian politics, [thinking like a top-class athlete] means looking beyond the struggle and the vicious despair and hate that are clouding our vision. We have to be able to play make-believe, draw up plans and scenarios of how the next government will function, what our roles, rights and duties will be, how we will interact and -most importantly- how Ethiopia will look after 5-15 years of this kind of government. Daydreaming and envisaging the ideal outcome is a great stress-reliever at the least- and a brilliant plan of action for the best scenario.

Whoever owns the new FM radio station… if you are taking song requests, please… “Weizero Wonqette, from the shores and sands of the great state of floods, mudslides, earthquakes and Jennifer Lopez, dedicates Fanno! Ere Fanno! to her sister in bloghood, Weizero(it) Coffee Chilli inna Sun.”

So, EPRDF. How's the muzzling of information workin' out for ya?

Ethiopia is so much more than the EPRDF. I find a possible moral vacuum more disturbing than a power vacuum. As much fun as it is watching the EPRDF commit suicide, Ethiopians should start getting ready to say “never again.” And this time, mean it. That is why the silent majority can never be silent again.

Thank you, Qest, for linking up the review of Crashing the Gate: Netroots, Grassroots, and the Rise of People-Powered Politics.

Monday, April 10, 2006

HR 4423-The Gore , The Glory

Before we talk about HR 4423…

So maybe I was not dreaming that there appears to be a palpable change in the US’ talking points about Ethiopia.

Vicky Huddleston, the charge d'affaires to Ethiopia used to be a big fan of “fair and speedy” trials for people the Ethiopian government has imprisoned on asinine charges of “genocide” and “treason”. Lovely. I dunno. I always thought that line was a bit like asking the person stabbing another person to give speedy medical attention to his victim. I guess it’s better than not saying anything, but at a certain point the stabbing needs to be addressed.

Well, it started with Yamamoto at the hearings, and now Ms. Huddleston seems to be losing patience. Jeepers whiskers. Some of the interesting parts…

AFP, April 6, 2006

The top US diplomat in Ethiopia said that opposition leaders and journalists accused of plotting a coup after deadly post-election violence last year must be freed to stabilize the country's volatile political situation.

"We feel that, in the end, their release is absolutely necessary to a reconciliation process," Huddleston said. "It can't go on like this, for this process both sides need to be ready to compromise."

"To have a dialogue with all the opposition it is terribly important for the future of the country and it is certainly an objective and a priority of our government," she said.

"We would like to see more progress, better respect for human rights, a more professional security forces and faster movement so that the opposition parties feel that they are really listened to," Huddleston said.

A far cry from give them a fair trial, and while you are at it, give them cake. Something is happening in the State Department.

So, HR 4423 was indeed reported out of Subcommittee. Considering that most bills die unceremoniously in Sub comm, wow.

It was a bit disturbing that it was a straight party line vote: republicans for it (6 votes); democrats against (4 votes). So you know what this means: Ranking member Donald Payne (D-New Jersey) is Ethiopia’s enemy #1 du jour and Chris Smith the patron saint. Alright people, walk it off.

To be sure, Payne is much more sympathetic towards the Ethiopian government than Smith, although I thought Payne was straightforward at the hearings where poor Ambassador Fisseha was henpecked. Payne, I felt, went out of his way to tell us he does not respond to pressure from the Diaspora. Ookay.

I am not sure why he seemed to have proposed an altogether new legislation… and it seems more like a new legislation than amendments to me, but what do I know. But why were all his amendments rejected?

7) (b) CREATION OF VICTIMS SUPPORT NETWORK.* The President, acting through the head of the appropriate department or agency of the Government of the United States, shall create a “Victims Support Network” for Ethiopia. The Network shall provide assistance to families of individuals who lost loved ones in Ethiopia, provide medical and financial support to individuals injured by Ethiopian Government security personnel, provide financial support for legal support for prisoners of conscience, and provide assistance to local groups or groups from outside of Ethiopia that are active in monitoring the status of individuals in prison and delivery of food, medicine, and
other necessities.

What was wrong with that?

7c “SUPPORTING INDIGENOUS HUMAN RIGHTS GROUPS” is also strong, although Smith also mentions the Ethiopian Human Rights Council by name as well.

Payne is more specific about establishing a

(d) JUDICIAL WATCH NETWORK.*The Secretary of State, acting through the head of the appropriate department or agency of the Government of the United States, shall create a Judicial Watch Network consisting of local and international groups to monitor judicial proceedings throughout Ethiopia with special focus on unnecessary government intervention on strictly judicial matters and to investigate and report ways to strengthen an independent judiciary.

The good thing about this is that it will expose just how brain numbingly injudicious the Ethiopian courts are, despite the EPRDF’s forced fantasy that there is separation of powers. Prime Minister Meles had long decided that opposition members were guilty of genocide and treason ahead of the prosecution, which woke up one dandy day and rubber stamped the charges. Remember what Ato Meles said upon the arrests? (Financial Times-subscription required)?

“What we have detained is people who have tried to overthrow the duly constituted government and that in my view is treason under the laws of the country,” he said.

Yaaa? It must be democracy with a small ‘d’ because most judiciaries do not work simply because the executive ‘feels’ like charging people.

That’s how ridiculous the judiciary is, and anything that sheds light on that should be welcomed.

My guess is that people heave-hoed into apoplectic seizures about Section 5, Article 2:

Ethiopian opposition parties suffer from internal divisions and some groups lack clear policy objectives, in large part due to repeated government harassment, detention of political leaders, inability to freely function as a political party inside the country, unhelpful interference and dominance by some exile groups, and lack of popular support for opposition-led armed insurrections.

I’m not sure what to make of “and lack of popular support for opposition-led armed insurrections.” But the rest… sure it might sting, but c’mon. The EPRDF essentially strengthened the opposition coalition that might have not seen eye-to-eye with each other. Now the CUD is seen as a martyr- a party of principle and determination because some knucklehead decided that chucking its leadership in jail was a stellar idea. But read Payne’s qualifier: “…in large part due to repeated government harassment, detention of political leaders, inability to freely function as a political party inside the country” Exactly. So not only does the opposition have martyr status, and, and whatever its divisions, it can say, “the EPRDF did it.” The EPRDF loses either way.

“Unhelpful interference and dominance by some exile groups” …I have also addressed in the OCD of OSDs and a creepy kingmaker complex that needs to be flicked.

The thing is, the silent majority in the Diaspora… the sane people who had toe tagged Ethiopian politics… is starting to speak. Voter registration initiatives are intensifying in the Ethiopian-American community. The insularity of the community is thawing as more and more Ethiopians have established a relationship with their representatives and senators. I’ve wondered this for a while: how did the EPRDF manage to fuck up its cozy position? Donor nations thought it was the best thing to happen to Africa since GMFs, and most of us had safely inoculated ourselves from Ethiopian politics: a blindingly adoring benefactor, coupled with tragically detached detractors. How perfect was that? Who pisses on that gift? The EPRDF does. And now a lot of highly caffeinated know-it-alls have stirred from slumber.

Anyway… so Payne, I guess to make sure his words are not twisted, made a not-so subtle point in the next paragraph:

(3) The EPRDF also faced its most serious internal divisions in the post-Mengistu era in 2001. A major split within the TPLF, the most important group within the EPRDF coalition, led to the ouster of nearly half of the Central Committee members and founding members of the TPLF. The ousted leaders remain a potential threat to Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, leader of the party. Restructuring and the ouster of other leaders in the coalition also took place over the past several years.

You wiley-waskly wabbit.

Both Smith and Payne are high on Nile projects and water harnessing. I hope this is taken seriously and that it is not a cynical earmark or used to needle Egypt. Harnessing Ethiopia’s hydroelectric potential and irrigation capabilities is the forgotten elixir. More on that in a later post.

Mr. Payne’s travel restrictions add “civilians who were involved in killing seven policemen.” Hm. Alrighty. It would actually be very interesting to read the Ethiopian government’s (cough!) independent investigations into the June and November killings. Why, the report is supposed to come out in April 2006… a few glitches… according to Ethiomedia, “Five out of the eleven members withdrew themselves from the commission long before the report is published. This has tarnished the image of the already 'talked-about' commission.”

Smith’s travel restrictions might cause a little ripple-ripple in the EPRDF, although I think it can be stricter.


shall deny a visa and entry into the United States

to any official of the Government of Ethiopia who

the President determines is involved in the unlawful

shooting of citizens of Ethiopia in June or November

2005 or other demonstrable violations of human

rights until such time as the certification described

in paragraph (3) is made in accordance with such


“Any official of the Government of Ethiopia who the President determines is involved in the unlawful shooting… or other demonstrable violations of human rights…” Ohhhh, that there leaves a lot of EPRDFfers to reschedule their next Disney vacation. But they can go to China, I guess. Whatever.

The certification in Payne’s amendment reads:

(c) CERTIFICATION.*The certification described in this subsection is a certification transmitted by the President to Congress that contains a determination of the President that*

(1) all prisoners of conscience in Ethiopia have been released;
(2) the investigation of the killing of civilian protesters by Ethiopian security forces is credible,
transparent, and those involved in the unlawful killing have been punished;
(3) family members and others have unfettered access to visit detainees in Ethiopian prisons;
(4) the rule of law and human rights are respected throughout Ethiopia; and
(5) the Ethiopian judiciary is independent.

So can someone explain to me why Payne is now so unconditionally vilified?

Payne doesn’t call outright for the release of the prisoners and tucks that provision in Section 7c, which is bullshit, and he does flitter around the EPRDF like a shy bridesmaid, but Payne was clearly dismayed at the Ethiopian government’s sense of judicious dishonesty. Apparently the EPRDF has let a friend of Payne’s, one Mr. Alazar, languish in jail for fours years on ‘corruption’ charges. (Payne doesn’t mention the Anuak genocide.)

One of the obvious differences between Smith and Payne is that Smith is heavy on ‘training’ Ethiopian soldiers to be better people… i.e. don’t use citizens as target practice. I am wary of any military cooperation, mainly because we see how the Ethiopian government uses assistance for “anti-terrorism” against its own people. (The US had to suspend Humvee ‘sales’ to Ethiopia on the account that Special Forces were roaming the city in Humvees terrorizing people. Ach. The irony.)

Smith wants a

United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture to conduct an investigation of reports that 11 prisoners have been and continue to be tortured 12 while in the custody of the Government of Ethiopia;

Payne must not care for UN Special Rapporteurs on Torture. (How the hell do you become one of those.)

Smith wants to “encourage” the Ethiopian government to open up the media, the innernetz, the insane Press Proclamation No. 34 (“which allows the government to bring criminal charges against journalists for offenses such as defamation and the publication of false news”) etc etc. I don’t know what “encouragement” entails. Can that be hashed out during full committee?

Smith appropriates $10 million towards this Act, Payne is thinking more in the $20 million range. Smith’s is not broken down as well as Payne’s.

Make no mistake about it, I have long lost confidence in the Democratic party. It’s becoming marginalized by master panderers like Hilary Clinton who don’t trust the base enough so prefer to down a Bud with NASCAR dads who will vote for her at half past when hell freezes over. Look at the whip check the Democrats did last week to derail the immigration bill. Even Mr. Kennedy conceded that politics came before policy. I guess you can argue that’s par for the course, but Democrats have been wailing about Republican intransigence, and the only way they could appear strong is by weakening policy.

The Ethiopian Diaspora’s blind allegiance to the Democratic Party has been more than a little perplexing, so seeing a reassessment of that is healthy, I think. But vilifying the ranking member as a mouthpiece of Meles? Please, people.

I kinda fell in like with the spokesperson of the Ethiopian American Council who was interviewed on VOA-Amharic on Saturday about HR 4423. I was pretty much digging what he was saying until he said that Payne’s proposal is exactly what Ato Meles has been saying—just in English. Hmm. Hyperbole much?

Okay, so apparently Payne was obstructionist in HR 923. But it is unhelpful to plop him in the Meles Mini-Me category. Whatever beef the Diaspora has with Payne, some of his amendments were strong. Period. And we should push for them. And, um, Payne is the ranking member in the Subcommittee. If the political landscape changes in November, things won’t look pur-dy.

Luckily for the Ethiopian opposition, the EPRDF is always ahead of the curve in the intellectual debauchery and diplomatic malfeasance department.

The Ethiopian Embassy, very ineptly run by H.E. Fesseha Ashgedom Tessema, issued a press release in which it… yes, said that it prefers the Payne bill. I know this was the Ethiopian government’s feeble attempt at political savvy, but, didn’ I ask nicely that the Ethiopian government not write any more letters?

On April 7 the Ethiopian Embassy sent out a press release. Lordy. Ne’er hath the phrase “Ethiopian Embassy” and “sent out a press release” meshed in the pursuit of higher scholarship. Speak, oh Titans of Trite:

It starts off with calling HR 4423 a “bill designed to interfere in Ethiopia's internal politics and to adversely affect Ethiopian-U.S. relations.”

Good one, boys. But are you really in a position to posture at this particular moment? You want to pivot good relations with the US with the passage of HR 4423? I am telling you, the EPRDF goes train wreck-y with each passing day.

Donald Payne (which it calls “the ranking minority member of the subcommittee”… minority as in black? Or minority as in democrat?- ranking member means the party that doesn’t control the… anyway) had a “substitute” bill that “we felt … was more balanced and more attentive to the genuine needs of the Ethiopian people." Really? Maybe someone needs to re-read Payne’s amendments, because if the Ethiopian government wants its passage then it will be acknowledging things such as conspicuous judicial maladies, strangling the free press, intolerance of dissent… not to mention supporting a travel ban and rigorous oversight of human rights affairs. So can we take Ato Fessha’s endorsement of Mr. Payne’s version of HR 4423 as an admission that:

… Human rights conditions deteriorated significantly after the May 15, 2005, elections in Ethiopia and overall human rights conditions in the country remain poor.

Can we take it to mean that the Ethiopian government accepts one of the congressional findings, that Human Rights Watch has said:

… ‘‘[I]n the wake of the May 15 parliamentary elections, in which opposition parties won an unprecedented number of seats amidst massive controversy over the election results, federal police in the Oromia and Amhara regions have threatened, beaten and detained opposition supporters, students and people with no political affiliation, often in nighttime raids. Alongside local government officials and members of local government-backed militias, the federal police have taken the lead in intimidating and coercing opposition supporters’’?

After peevishly telling us there is a robust free media in Ethiopia during the hearings, is Ambassador Fesseha admitting that:

Journalists and editors of the independent Press have been and continue to face harassment and prosecution for alleged violations of press laws in Ethiopia. Dozens of journalists have either fled the country and some are currently in exile fearing prosecution or harassment.

You see where this is going? The EPRDF was probably thinking it was practicing a stealth political maneuver. Relax, boys. Don’t hurt yourself. It’s insane to back Payne’s bill in an effort to divide the Diaspora. Quoting Payne as saying that opposition groups in Ethiopia “have not been saints”? What’s that about? That’s what it comes down to?

The EPRDF might have also pissed off its last sympathizer in congress. Being so strongly aligned to the EPRDF might not be what Payne wants. Hasn’t been working for Tony Blair these days. But the Ethiopian government is used to misquoting and alienating its friends. Tim Clarke?

Um, is it too late to ask what the heck happened to the other Ethiopian Ambassador in DC, Kassahun Ayele? He was so good at ‘splaining. Not so much. He was good at stammering through explanations. He didn’t even say goodbye.

So anyway, when I heard the CUD- North America had responded to the passage of HR 4423, I cringed… Another Payne bashing?

The amendment introduced by Ranking Member Donald Payne was not
accepted as it was unable to get the necessary vote. But contrary to
some misrepresentations and distorted spin by the Ethiopian government
and its supporters, Mr. Payne’s amendment was not a whitewash of the
crimes of the regime in
Addis Ababa. The amendment acknowledges the
widespread human rights abuse and suggests corrective mechanisms. Our

Support Committees and community thank Congressman Payne
for the serious concern he has shown and the hard work he put in to address the problems of human rights and democracy in our country.

Someone gets it. Finally.

The passage of HR 4423 through Subcommittee is undoubtedly a huge deal. I hope some of it is amended, and I hope it passes full committee with the support of both parties.

But before we get going, we need to understand what went wrong with the democrats in sub comm. I can’t figure out if it was the standard partisan politicking or if there is something deeper. I am not a constituent of the members who voted against the bill: Congresswoman Barbra Lee (D-CA), Congresswoman Betty McCollum (MN), Congressman Gregory W. Meeks (D-NY), and Donald M. Payne (NJ) but I hope those of you who are will ask them why. Hopefully the civic organizations working on HR 4423 can mediate between the community and Payne. I know we live in districts that have been jerrymandered to ridiculousness, but it is still curious that there was a straight party line vote.

As long as the “not silent no’ mo’” majority sticks to people and organizations with a proven track record of moderation, the Ethiopian Diaspora is well on its way to becoming a weighty entity. Like most people, I admire the Cuban-American clout. But it has a shoot from the hip tendency. The debacle over the Elian Gonzalez case brought that to light. With all its power, Cuba is still being led by a crotchety commie; daily life is unbearable for most Cubans who risk life and limb to reach American shores. But try getting elected in Florida without the Cuban vote.

The moderate voice should be the one leading the HR 4423 success. The one thing about extremism is that it is easily penetrable and that makes it weak. People who align themselves only with organizations which are virile preachers of “with me or against me” have short political shelf lives. Brother Gooch was trying to examine why so many Ethiopian civic organizations fail. I ain’t no sociologist, but I think it might have to do with outfits organized around extremism… hating EPRDF or hating the opposition. Opposition supporters in the Diaspora faltered big time when they allowed vilification of Berhanu Nega during the post election negotiations. Beyene Petros and Merara Gudina have been denigrated for joining parliament. The EPRDF started arresting CUD members and essentially bailed out supporters of the opposition in the Diaspora. But we can’t keep on depending on EPRDF to make bone headed mistakes. And now people I thought were sane are sending me information about the freakin’ EPRP??? Give me a break. These convenient and ephemeral allegiances are bound to fail, and when they do it gets ugg-lee.

My favorite Ethiopundit quote:

Ethiopians will remember who they have always been and not what they have been told to be at the point of a gun.

Do your part: Website for International Relations Committee. Here are the members of the IRC. Henry Hyde is the chairman.