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.

…whoosh…

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.

Spppppplat!

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?

Neophytes!

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.

Uh-oh.

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.

19 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's like this; the EPRDF will not come to their senses (if they ever had any) the situation is what it is, and we know how the west has reacted. What now?

1) kenesu gar gedel megbat. No compromise on either end.

2) lobby and hope the west will finally listen to their conscience (if they ever had any)

3) join the process with whatever CUD (fake or real) still exists

It is depressing.

4:48 PM, April 19, 2006  
Anonymous ha-to-zed! said...

Since I ain't no political Wonq either, maybe someone can explain. What is the opposition being asked TO compromise? Accept the results and enter parliament? So what would eprdf's part in that compromise be, then?

What am I missing? angebgabi tiyaKKe.

5:07 PM, April 19, 2006  
Anonymous My Two Cents said...

Ha to Zed:

The compromise from the EPRDF is that it won't kill any of them. How is that for compromise.

Donor nations are completely screwed. They really believed CUD would fold, especially in post-Hibret era. They didn't think people had the resolve. Meanwhile pressure is mounting from the west and the main stream media is picking up on the stories of the prisoners. The trouble for TPLF and donor coalition is that CUD leaders, largely, are sympathetic figures- educated in the west, intellectuals-- potential media darlings. They are not armed goons. Plus, TPLF/EPRDF is purging CUD members who might be thought less patriotic etc etc by people who see this new CUD as a breech in trust.

So, ETW. I agree with you for the first time. CUD should be writing a thank you letters to bumbling diplomats and Meles. You will want Vicki to stay.

5:23 PM, April 19, 2006  
Anonymous Yeneta said...

Wonqette,

As always u are good and right on the money, when u say "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."
It is legitimacy for their puppet regime, the U.S. and her allies wanted to see when they financed elections after elections in Ethiopia. The May 2005 election demonstrated once again the refusal by Ethiopians to give legitimacy to rag-tag army, who forced its way thru brute forces. No amount of Western money, no political manouvers and spins by their diplomats would buy legitimacy to this regime. Period. Ethiopians would always see this regime for what it is: a regime of rag-tag warlords imposed on them by a major power.

Wonqette, based on your take on Meles apologists and their outrageous statements, group of friends are thinking of making sketches for a street play. Can you help? E-mail me at editor@nazret.com

5:55 PM, April 19, 2006  
Anonymous glatch demmena said...

did she say, "Change and democracy comes from within. It can’t be imposed from the outside"??

has et-telecom disrupted servce between the ethiopian embassy and the state department? ere Ato Rumsfeld! gud fella.

6:56 PM, April 19, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

....................she had me at "a time to plant, a time to pluck what thee hath planted." (who knew that was from the bible? i thought it was a crosby stills and nash song.)

7:14 PM, April 19, 2006  
Anonymous Yohnannes said...

Good question was raised- what is an acceptable exit strategy? What can the EPRDF give up? As long as that question is not answered, shuttle diplomacy is futile.

9:52 PM, April 19, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know it’s not fashionable to say these things in a forum like this one, but I will say it any way. I think it’s about time we stopped begging and hanging on every word the west is uttering about Ethiopia. Two weeks ago, Vicky was singing a different tune and now, probably after a dinner at the palace, she sounds exactly like Meles. For crying out loud! Let’s take our destiny into our own hands and stop begging others to stand up for us. Let’s all stand for ourselves and our people.

11:52 PM, April 19, 2006  
Anonymous Phiqir said...

Wonq, welcome back to...
"we can't let them fail". so what are we doing about it?

As one wise wo/man said 'people get the government they deserve'. may be this what we deserve or is it? lelaw angebgabi tiyakke

12:14 AM, April 20, 2006  
Anonymous Inde Hewan said...

If platitudes could kill, Huddleston would be hauled before the ICC for mass atrocities, despite protestations from her boss.

Since AE's "Weekly action alert" has had the same alert for weeks on end now, let me abuse this *discussion* forum with a couple *action* weekly ideas of my own.

Let me ask: Why is it that Huddleston (and Ishac Diwan, and and) can feel perfectly at ease hurling this salvo of superficialities ... no, Orwellisms, at the press? Mass distribution of flyers in Addis anyone? Not those flyers saying how bad Meles is (tell Addis Abebans something they don't know), but rather detailing how the donor community is happy to sacrifice the Ethiopian people at the altar of dictator-prop-up-and-nurture? Flyers onto windshields of every 2nd car in the Capitol Hill area, showing what tax money is going to? Mass letter campaign to all key Ethiopia focal persons in the major agencies (cc. rights groups and the press) giving not generic rants but showing we know about their lie to taxpayers about that "no more budget support" thing? Action anyone?

2:21 AM, April 20, 2006  
Anonymous qurt said...

Which part of this blog entry "begs" the west for help? as people who live in the west, holding it accountable is our duty. after all it is the west who is sustaining this governmnet.

inde Hewan, excellent idea. i live in London and I will get a couple of friends of mine and organize a similar flyer. thanks for grassrooting us.

4:54 AM, April 20, 2006  
Anonymous respekmahauthoritah! said...

"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."

haaaa? does vik.h. say that to meles as well or is this kind of blather strictly for our consumption? genocide charges? for f***'s sake!

no one has answered the question: what Is ihadig's compromise in this? (other than not killing them, that is.)

9:32 AM, April 20, 2006  
Anonymous ye mankusaw welafen said...

Weizero Vhikki,

Ahun esti meTaff qidussun mnew bitewut? Demoss Ato Melese ke EgzihEr medhaneetachin Eyesus Krstoss gar keteTalu senbet b'lewal aydol?

Zadiyyyyyyya... ay-ay. Byhon Tsebel biTE biyarkefekfubachew. Aliyam, Abba Gebrekristoss'n Tertew (ye Mankusawwin' tadiya, adera) igir ijachewin Teferew asserew a'and kuletE biyagwaruwachew... mechess tnnish sra aydolemmmmmmmmmmm, lemalet new.

Inji indihu be deffenaw meTihafun biyaTboot mn fyda alew?

11:29 AM, April 20, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"...Two weeks ago, Vicky was singing a different tune and now, probably after a dinner at the palace, she sounds exactly like Meles...."

Nothing new here, 'Wusha bebelabet yichohal', new negeru.

1:11 PM, April 20, 2006  
Blogger CHEREKA said...

For all of you under this illusion about the US will solve our problems, please read what Ms Condi Rice said about the tyrant from Equatorial Guinean, Obiang Nguema. People, this administration, including Congressman Smith are playing a game. Don't you all get it?

2:20 PM, April 20, 2006  
Blogger enaseb said...

chereKa....i been sayin za same eko

glatch demmena....lmao weyne motkugn! i could not have said it more clearly.

inde hewan...i'm on board cause that's the kinda grassroots movement i am willing to put my energies into.

as i have said earlier. the democracy that works is getting the groundswell within our cities amongst the average everyday peoples. bringing eprdf's bull / ethiopia's troubles to light is what will bring a change. south africa is a case in point. the only thing that worked are the SANCTIONS started by your everyday lay people. the government of the united states was the last to get aboard even that. the thing is...once a groundswell starts....accomplishes what it needs to as it crashes.

3:50 AM, April 21, 2006  
Anonymous Inde Hewan said...

Hi Enaseb and Qurt (and everyone else),
So let me throw out my follow up question: How can we target, embarrass and expose donors through flyers both in Addis and in the West? Qurt, is there a spunky group in London ready to get into grassroots action? In DC I am trying to rally some folks and small groups. In Addis, well, that's a hard one ... Any ideas?

On a very different note, ETW, clicking on you "fascinating interview" link and going to 8:51 I was not able to hear Huddleston. It was about drought in Somale region. I tried some other segments of the 1 hour show, couldn't find her. Also, where on your "Friday" link is Huddleston to be heard?

1:39 PM, April 22, 2006  
Anonymous ETW said...

Inde Hewan,

I don't know where voa stores past shows. i guess unless you listen to shows the same week or download it, they go to the ether world. if someone has downloaded the interview, can you please, please post it somewhere... please? (you have to listen Vicki's mellifluous voice to really appreciate the platitude. Especially when she quotes scriptures.)

BTW, Inde Hewan, you are absolutely fantastic! You represent the grassroots movements of yesteryear where two-three people gather to initiate change. Gobez yene lij.

10:15 AM, April 25, 2006  
Blogger enaseb said...

inde hewan,

i shall try to brainstorm contents for a flyer on this end (i think citing a brief chronology of meles's tyrraids since the elections is one way to go).

we should talk about what the intent is. i think it is to bring to light ethiopia's current situation. what do you guys think?

and on the addis abeba tip...how bout we ask dina?

12:13 AM, April 26, 2006  

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