Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Colonial Masters and Things that go Boom! in Daylight

Two quick points:

Life always gets a little brighter whenever Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi gives an interview to the Western press. His incurable Turrets Syndrome about how the West has an obligation to give him alms is what has made him the backbone of everything magnificently banal… and may I say, thank you, Mr. Prime Minister.

UK’s The Times had the honor of speaking to Ato Meles. The result: Rejected ally says Britain cut off aid like an old colonial master.

Ehhh. Need I go on? Seriously?

For a leader whose country was not colonized by Europe, Ato Meles has this grimy itch about things colonial. But the ills of colonization only seem to rile him when the West pisses him off. Other times, not so much.

The drive-by, wintry vituperation directed at Chief EU Elections Observer made Prime Minister Meles a legend in African warlord circles, and why not? A “self appointed colonial viceroy” is what he called Ana Gomes when she decided Melesocracy was frighteningly deficient in democracy. Still tugs at your heartstrings, don’t it?

But a year has passed and ‘self appointed colonial viceroy’, though brilliantly campy, had started to run out of prissiness. Soooooo……

Mr. Meles accused Mr. Blair of behaving like an old colonial master in cutting off aid in response to the killing by government troops of scores of opposition protesters last year.

Ahhhhhhhhhhh. It’s like a long, ice-cold drink of flippancy in the middle of an intellectual drought. But, wait. The UK’s brand of colonial mastery is different.

“From the UK we expected more (but) they acted in a manner not consistent with their principles.”

Uh… their colonial principles or other principles? I am rusty on my colonial history, but did colonial powers withdraw aid whenever heads of their colonies mowed down civilians? Somebody look it up.

Mr. Meles said that Britain had reneged on a promise to develop a new relationship with Africa. “This from a donor which championed a new relationship with Africa,” he said. “I disagree very strongly with what they did.”

That Blair! He must have snuck in a small-print caveat about how the UK will have to withdraw aid if aid recipient publicly embarrasses, vexes or in any way annoys the UK. How the legion of intellectuals heading the EPRDF missed that clause before cashing in the check is a puzzler.

“I have no personal ill feeling about the position taken by Mr. Blair regarding his feeling that we overreacted, but where I disagree strongly is what they did next. It was not consistent with the new policy.”

Uh. I am beginning to worry about this fabled “new relationship” and “new policy” of the UK’s. What did it entail? That aid money would flow into Ethiopia as long as the EPRDF wore three-piece suits and killed people outside of Addis? Well, I ain’t no nuclear scientist, but something here doesn’t quite add up. How exactly was ‘Good Governance wink-wink-nudge-nudge’ defined in the Africa Commission because Ato Meles doesn’t seem to think that riddling a crowd with bullets then violating the country’s constitution by banning demonstrations, imprisoning the opposition and setting up concentrations camps is, um, bad governance.

I dunno. It seems to me that there needs to be a re-knighting of new- new African renaissance leaders (this time make them “deliciously carb free”) since the last batch (Museveni, Meles and Issayas) have turned out to be gun-totting bores.

Anyway, suffice it to say, Ato Meles is displeased. “Colonial master” displeased.

The British government, deeply embarrassed by the violent crackdown, withdrew about £50 million in direct budget support. A planned increase of £30 million was also put on hold, disrupting plans for “basic services” projects.

Other donors followed suit. Ethiopia, which had previously been held up as a beacon of good governance, saw about £580 million of aid frozen.

Blah… blah…

Hilary Benn, in January 2006:

… I have not decided to reduce the aid budget to Ethiopia, nor have I made a decision to reallocate funds to non-government aid agencies or the UN. I have made a decision not to give budget support which the Ethiopian Government can use for any purpose. This is because the provision of budget support is based upon shared commitments between partners, one of which is upholding human rights. Recent political events have led to a breach of trust on this. That’s why all the donors who have been giving budget support have made the same decision.

Methinks no aid cut happened and all this is massive posturing. The UK is just making the Ato Meles jump through a few more hoops before cutting the check—standard procedure to not look like it is propping up an authoritarian regime. And Ato Meles has gotten fat and lazy, petulant and humiliated about actually having to jump through those hoops: he had kinda gotten used to putting out his hat and it magically filling with coins. Somebody hand him a Gatorade.

In the end, the UK seems to be rerouting aid through ‘other’ Ethiopian government channels, which in turn are channeling that money to, well, if The Independent is to be trusted, back to the UK.

Money flowing into UK bank accounts from developing countries has surged in the past few years, dwarfing Britain's official aid budget, figures show.

The amount flowing in from poor countries in areas such as Africa and South America surged more than $115bn (£61.2bn) last year to $385bn.

The scale of the exodus of capital from countries with major social problems will raise fears of massive corruption and money laundering that will hurt the welfare of the world's most vulnerable people.

The New Economics Foundation said deposits had risen noticeably over the past five years, with inflows from Cameroon up 516 per cent, from Ethiopia rising 103 per cent and Nigeria up by 47 per cent…

So what’s all the bellyaching about?

Second quick point:

Could the residents of Addis Abeba please start acting more terrified? Just so the bombings can stop? I called several people in Addis, all of whom seem brazenly unperturbed by nine bombs ka-booming all over the city.

The timing of this latest series of bombings is way-ree way-ree fishy: a day before the first anniversary of the Ethiopian elections. Someone obviously wanted to divert attention. The places: government offices (to indicate it is someone who has a beef with the guvment), public transportation, cafes and hotel restrooms-- places designed to illicit maximum terror… who doesn’t take a taxi and sit at a café sipping café con leche? Hmm. Who would possibly benefit from a terrified populace that will duck its head in fear?

The most interesting part: the government was unusually coquettish about pointing to who was responsible for the boom-boom. Usually it wastes no time pointing to the OLF, the pesky Eritreans, the man on the moon and colonial viceroys. This time, nada.

This is very disturbing because:

a) where is all the money the US is pouring into Ethiopia to fight ‘terrorism’ going?

b) how can any organization so boldly penetrate the tight ship the Ethiopian government runs to willy-nilly plant nine bombs without being detected

It’s also a dicey PR problem: the EPRDF needs to point out there are terrorist in its midst (which justifies its military highhandedness), while at the same time telling us that bombs exploding in buses and cafes in the capital city is nothing to get spooked over. How to send out this message? Enter… oh, look… one Zemedkun Tekle, spokesman for the Ministry of Misinformation, who talked to VOA.

The capital is very peaceful and nothing is new. We find those kinds of explosions even in big cities in like the United States and other international cities.

Well, I feel better.

[Sigh] I miss our old friend Bereket Simon, former Minister of Information, uber kvetcher and imponderous dispenser of drivel. But on the other hand, yes, which one of us living in the United States has not dodged bombs on the way to Starbucks and on the T?

Addis has a new mayor elected by… no body. But perhaps on the new mayor’s task list should be a new catch phrase for Addis… “Addis: bombings don’t slow us down. They shouldn’t you. Come, invest.”

The Returnees Caucasus has been… bombarding (get it?) us with reasons why international aid to Ethiopia should not be cut and how we should aggressively invest in Ethiopia, but maybe it can try informing the government that bombings are scaring away investors and tourists.

Here’s who I predict the Ethiopian government will blame for the bombings: sympathizers of…Al Qaeda. Always a winning tactic, IF Ato Zemedkun can somehow comfort us with his soothing words: “Yes. Islamist anti-peace elements aided by OLF, Eritrea and Wal-Mart are actively trying to discredit our beautiful democracy. But, really, it’s no big deal. It happens in Baghdad every day. Pass the ketchup. Er, someone clean up that smashed window, please.”

So, Addis Abebans, just please pretend you are terrified. Sheesh.


I am trying to collect anecdotes from people who called the World Bank about this flyer. If you are willing, please share your experience.


Anonymous dube said...

ehh, much of a psycho as el primo-revolutionary-democrat-minister meles is, there might also be as psycho (or god forbid) more psycho LF groups out there.

Even if we are sure it is him; I'd hate for us to smirk and feed conspiracy theories while people are, well, dying in not-so-funny ways.

If we believe it's the govm'nt let us all mobilize and condemn it and treat it as serious as ..well, shooting down demonstrators in broad day light.

I just don't want him to find a new way to kill people and we all just shake our heads and say 'stupid guy, thinks we don't know' and chuckle at his handiwork.

He or whoever is doing this shit ain't funny.

Sorry for getting’ all serious but shit is serious.

Happy belated mother's day emebete wonqitu

6:41 PM, May 16, 2006  
Anonymous rejectionist diasporan said...

that picture of meles in the times article--- *so* wrong.

7:25 PM, May 16, 2006  
Anonymous dube said...

Looks like he's saying;

Maaa. Ineeee? Neyvvveeerrr!

I miss seleda

8:02 PM, May 16, 2006  
Anonymous bert said...

Loving the blog, I feel though perhaps you missed Meles' shiining quotation,
“The opposition wanted an Orange Revolution, but they failed miserably. They miscalculated. Ethiopia is not a spineless, corrupt, ex-Soviet rump. Ethiopia is not the Ukraine”
Aside from his excellent geography Mr Meles is being very astute here (a rareity I aggree) - foreign powers were willing to invest much more in the orange revolution because it was in the Ukraine. a country which mos tof Russia's gas exports flow which the west would want a pro-western government in if at all possible.
The PM knows this will never happen in Ethiopia, so can scorn and mock other "weaker" governments as much as he wants to try and make himself look better.
On the other hand is does appear to be trying to claim those who intitiated and carried out the Orange Revolution were actually bent on genocide, treason and other such minor crimes against humanity. Rather than just wanting a un-corrupt democratic government. Hmmmm.

8:39 AM, May 17, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

you find it very funny.

and you are backing

t h e colenialist !!!

hummmm .


10:24 AM, May 17, 2006  
Anonymous berad shai said...

how is it that meles is seen as a genius by his friends? Wonq asked this a whiole ago: what are we missing?

2:30 PM, May 17, 2006  
Anonymous not anonymous said...


congrats are in order! you have just achieved the dubious honor of being banned from Ethiopia.
if ever you needed confirmation that you got under their skin, well . .here it be!

4:40 PM, May 18, 2006  
Anonymous abebech gemeda said...

There is a treasure of histry, recent histry writen in a unique manner by Ato Assefa Chabo. I enjoy Assefa's articles rrecalling his participation, incarceration and forced exile in politiclal Ethiopia.
Please,someone please collect Assefa's writing. Please!
abebech gemeda

4:48 PM, May 18, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

three words

Hooked on phonics

7:45 PM, May 18, 2006  
Anonymous inde hewan said...

C'est moi from the action corner, which I have stealthily carved out and nested in on ETW's blog-comment site.

Regarding Wonquette's very last sentence: Indeed: Send your tales from contacting the World Bank her way, including unanswered calls/emails and "Too busy, will call you back" responses. A friend told me the Bank Country Director Ishac Diwan responded to his email, asking my friend to please not politicise aid in a country as poor as Ethiopia. I'll refrain from commenting, lest I rain upon you my torrent about Diwanian duplicity and hypocrisy.

Two signs Diwan is starting to get the jitters about the sudden diaspora awakening from its slumber, about the big aid-buck$$$ going Meles' way:

1) He went out of his way to respond on Ethiomedia to our article on the PBS loan (... response is currently being crafted, stay tuned!), and

2) The Bank hastily and on short notice called for a meeting with people in the US-based Ethiopian community, to discuss the PBS (likely, however, in order to fix up its image that has been shaken by recent activist action, and to try to co-opt us). We'll make sure to get 1 or 2 of us into the meeting (I'll have to stay out of it since I can't be public). Date's not certain but looks like it may be coming Tuesday, 23. May. Y'all DC-baseds: Show up in droves at the Bank building, take a good stack of the Bank flyer with you to distribute. Until such time that the poor in our country have the political voice to hold their government and moneyed donors accountable, it's up to us to speak up and speak out against government-donor collusion over the head of the people!

One more thing on aid: Stay tuned to my interview with Addisferenji on her blog. :-)

12:02 AM, May 19, 2006  
Anonymous Yohannes said...

Inde Hewan:-

I feel like I have seen you grow up right in front of me! Only a few months ago you were asking how to help, and now, you are taking action all by yourself! Classic grassroots-- take a few people you trust and do your part, as it says in the Wonqvillian mahder. The power of the technocrat! You got the slumbering WB to respond!? Gobez, gobez.

"Please don't politicize aid"?? Gud fella.

5:48 AM, May 19, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was curious so I checked out the World Bank's active projects; listed below;

Private Sector Development Capacity Building Project
Productive Safety Nets Project (APL 1) E
ET-ICT Assisted Dev SIM (FY05)
Post Secondary Education Project
Ethiopia Water Supply and Sanitation Project
Public Sector Capacity Building Program Support Project
ET- Road Sector Development Phase 2
Pastoral Community Development Project
Capacity Building for Decentralized Service Delivery
Food Security Project
Cultural Heritage Project
Ethiopia Distance Learning LIL
Conservation and Sustainable Use of Medicinal Plants Project
Conservation and Sustainable Use of Medicinal Plants Project
Emergency Demobilization and Reintegration Project Ethiopia
Emergency Recovery and Rehab. Project
Multisectoral HIV/AIDS Project
Women Development Initiatives
Health Sector Development Program

on the other hand, the state department is training soldiers in Djbiouti. I read an article about this recently; where that Viki whatshername is actually doing target practice with them. Nuts!

ahiyawin ferto dawilawin ayhun. I'd move that massive protest to the other side of town.

8:31 AM, May 19, 2006  
Anonymous wonchif said...

Oh, what a great list... thx Anonymous above.

It is a great idea to keep a list of projects that funds you're salary, hmm... I'm impressed. Oops lets not politicize aid.

inde hewan, we're tuned!

6:18 PM, May 19, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


4:54 AM, May 21, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Times May 20, 2006

We are happy to make clear that Meles Zenawi, the Ethiopian Prime Minister, neither made an accusation nor implied that Tony Blair had behaved like an “old colonial master” in cutting off aid in response to the political unrest after the May 2005 national elections (World News, May 15).


7:20 AM, May 21, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


More on Meles' quote to the Times.

10:17 AM, May 24, 2006  

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