Friday, September 07, 2007

Close your eyes, Tear up Your Calendar

Close your eyes. Tear up your calendar. It is the 80’s in Ethiopia all over again.

From HRW

[The Derg] later used the disaster as a pretext to forcibly relocate hundreds of thousands of villagers from northern Ethiopia to areas in the south. The Dergue argued that its "villagization" campaign, as it came to be known, was meant to relocate people from food deficient areas to the fertile plains of the south. In reality, the move was meant to empty rebel-held areas form potential supporters.

From Global Security: (From Newsday)

The [famine] scare prompted Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, a silver-tongued policy wonk and darling of the World Bank and other foreign donors, to embark on a policy of resettlement that would have been unthinkable when he took power 13 years ago. He decided that, if millions of highland Ethiopians could not feed themselves year after year, his government would truck them to less-crowded, more-fertile land.

That the current government has latched on to the resettlement scheme to solve the drought problem is a shock to many people familiar with this country's history.

The people who overthrew the previous military regime of Mengistu Haile Mariam 20 years ago were ardent enemies of his similar resettlement plan. Those people - including Prime Minister Meles - are now policymakers.

Time Magazine: Famine Hunger Stalks Ethiopia Again December 21, 1984

But much of Tigre remains cut off; the Tigrean People's Liberation Front has demanded that the Mengistu government rescind its resettlement policy before it guarantees the safety of the food trucks.

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Close your eyes. Tear up your calendar. It is 1984 in Ethiopia all over again.

Back then, Mengistu Hailemariam’s brutality allowed for homeless people to be removed from Addis so as to not offend Soviet dignitaries who were coming to pat their revo-apparatchik on his head for ten wonderful years of Marxist obedience.

New York Times: POLITICS TANGLES THE SUPPLY LINE TO ETHIOPIA

November 11, 1984

(Subscription Required)

American officials, in turn, charge that Ethiopia itself played down the famine until after it observed the 10th anniversary of its Communist regime in September, a celebration on which, according to Mrs. Fenwick, the Ethiopians spent more than $100 million.

AP: August 28, 2007 Homeless Ethiopians Moved Out of Capital.

Thousands of homeless people will be moved from the capital to the countryside before next month's millennium celebration and provided help with food, shelter and medicine, a development group said Tuesday.

Beggars are a common sight in Addis Ababa, a city of 5 million with an estimated 90,000 living on the streets.

Ethiopia is planning a 10-hour celebration in Meskel Square to mark the millenium, an event expected to draw tourists from around the world.

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New York Times Editorial: How Banquets can Feed Ethiopians

May 26, 1988

(Subscription required)

The Ethiopian Government of Lieut. Col. Mengistu Haile Mariam appears bent on starving some two million people. It refuses to allow international relief agencies access to stricken areas. … Colonel Mengistu has expelled the Red Cross and other humanitarian agencies, claiming that they were aiding anti-Government rebels in the northern provinces of Eritrea and Tigre.

BBC: Ethiopia Deadline for Red Cross

July 24, 2007

The Red Cross has been given seven days to leave the Ogaden region bordering Somalia by the Ethiopian government.

The regional president of Ethiopia's Somali region, Abdullai Hassan, told the BBC that the ICRC had been given seven days to leave the area.

He accused the organisation of collaborating with the enemy and of spreading baseless accusations against the regional government on its website.

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Close your eyes. Tear up your calendar. It is 1990 in Ethiopia.

TIME: Africa Death by Starvation

January 22, 1990

Of all the obscenities of war, none is as inexcusable as the deliberate slaughter of civilians.

Yet a hunger crisis may hit as early as March because most of the people at risk are trapped behind lines controlled by the three insurgent armies battling Mengistu's troops. Mengistu so far refuses to let relief convoys enter rebel-controlled territories for fear the food may go toward feeding the insurgents or the trucks may be ferrying arms to them. His obstinacy follows a year of humiliating defeats for his forces in Eritrea and Tigre.

New York Times: Ethiopia is said to block food to rebel region.

July 22, 2007

The Ethiopian government is blockading emergency food aid and choking off trade to large swaths of a remote region in the eastern part of the country that is home to a rebel force, putting hundreds of thousands of people at risk of starvation, Western diplomats and humanitarian officials say.

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Close your eyes and keep them closed.

Charlayne Hunter-Gault’s famous interview wuth Mengistu Hailemariam for the McNeil-Lehrer NewsHour circa 1984/5

Asked about his reputation as a mass murderer, Mengistu, without flinching, said he can’t even remember harming a fly, let alone kill a human being.

TIME Magazine: Interview with PM Meles Zenawi

September 6, 2007

TIME: Your image as a role model for African leaders has been tarnished by the perception that your government is not concerned with human rights.

Meles: As a person, I have never been discourteous or nasty to anybody. I may have stood my ground a bit too directly, a bit too firmly, and I believe I have over a number of years learned to be a little less direct.

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If it is true that we become what we hate most, then Ato Meles has come full circle.

Beneath all the sparkly lights of a new Addis skyline, beyond the ephemeral distraction of an extravaganza celebration of the millennium, we forget just how bloody, how vicious, how vindictive the EPRDF and Ato Meles are.

Open your eyes and look back at the calendar.

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TIME: Ethiopia- Few Tears for Tyrant

June 3, 1991

At 11 a.m. last Tuesday, U.S. charge d'affaires Robert Houdek was called to the office of Ethiopian Prime Minister Tesfaye Dinka in Addis Ababa. With tears in his eyes, Tesfaye announced that President Mengistu Haile Mariam had resigned and left the country.

The Prime Minister was one of the few people to weep for Mengistu, whose brutal 14-year dictatorship -- the last hard-line Marxist-Leninist regime in Africa -- had turned his nation of 51 million people into a wasteland of famine and internecine fighting.

God’s speed.

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7 Comments:

Anonymous Gooch said...

Meles:

As a person, I have never been discourteous or nasty to anybody.

Sad - I don't know too many ordinary people, let alone leaders of countries, who would have the temerity to say this in all good conscience.

Super post, ETW.

1:13 PM, September 07, 2007  
Anonymous awaqi said...

too negative ... chin up a little wonk, millennium is around the corner

6:07 PM, September 07, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Way too many similarities for a twist of fate. It soundslike the Black Stalin, aka Mengistu Haile Mariam wrote the playbook for nasty dictators. I am sure his host Robert Mugabe has a signed copy that he routinely uses to squash his subjects. Meles must have put his hands on a copy the dictator left behind when he hastily left Addis.

I wonder if there is a chapter on killing stray dogs!! Who knows, the last chapter might be on how to leave hastly when the going gets tough. Let's hope he makes it to the last chapter real soon.

12:50 PM, September 10, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Wonqe, you just put your finger on the tip of the geo-ploit'l puzzle. Push the comparison back to the 1970's, Dimbleby and all, and then, you might be more careful of what you wish for (God speed). Ask yourself, whether the successors were worse or better than their predecssors? Whether, there are additional parallels with the 1980s in the nature of the problems being singled out and the forces being groomed by the good samaritans?

Akbarish
Abdissa

2:57 AM, September 13, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Abdissa,

I don't know much and I know your comment is for the blogger but I've to say this: changes made were just but what we got was/is TISHALIN FETICHE TIBISIN AGEBAHU I think we all agree on that. I don't think there is any justification for TIBIS to stay. I don't think there is any significant support for TISHAL to come back either, and unlike you, I think after this one small hurdle there will be choices to be made every four or five years from now on. The Madiba was there to lead south africa for a term and then he didn't even ran no more but apartheid is gone never to come back again. Ethiopia doesn't have half the problems of South Africa but she has double the advantage to get rid of it since it doesn't have roots and is only very young.

4:36 AM, September 13, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Anonymous,

I wish I could share your optimism. I think it takes more than abstract reflection and comparisons to get a sense of the magnitude and complexity of the problem that continues to bedevil our beloved country for the past FOUR decades. There is a lot that we do not know because we think we know.

Akbariwot,
Abdissa

8:58 AM, September 14, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The 'good samaritans' are not as important as the nation that voted for the 'groomed' large enough to form a government. The 'good samaritans' you mentioned don't live in fear of being excuted or 'disappeared' or tortured hence headache for AGAZI led murderers.

3:30 AM, September 18, 2007  

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