Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The Hearings- Part 1

Congressman Chris Smith held hearings on Ethiopia yesterday.

Here are a few observations on Donald Yamamoto’ s testimony. Speak oh Dean of Frequent Flyer miles to Bole Airport.

The United States believes that democracy is the best form of government
for stability – in
Africa and beyond.

Uh-oh. He’s not going to like what the EPRDF has been doing to the democracy.

Results have been mixed, and hopes for progress have been chilled, as
the government has clamped down on individuals’ right to assemble and
journalists’ ability to report events.

Didn’t I tell you he was na-ganna like it?

There is every reason to believe that Ethiopians want responsive
leadership, and the U.S. Government supports the efforts of students and
activists to have their voices heard.

Gulp. “All pharmacists please return to your stations. Entire EPRDF membership would like a refill on Lithium.”

Okay. Okay. Democracy good. Non-democracy bad.

Election observers from the United States (U.S.) and European Union (EU) recognized the National Electoral Board for its excellent job registering voters and candidates, and preparing for the elections. Even the state-managed media coverage was considered fair, giving the opposition 56% of the airtime exposure, according to the EU report, while the ruling party received 44% of the coverage.

Now, I haven’t had the stomach to check the Ethiopian New Agency or Walta Misinformation’s coverage of the hearings, but here, let’s help with writing the headlines:

US government says Ethiopian Elections Excellent!”
“Honorable Yahmimotto praises Ethiopian forage to democracy!!”
“ ‘CUD Discredited, State Media works’
US official”
“Democracy ain’t yo’ mama’s footstool!”

The Yamamoto was kinder to the National Election Board of Ethiopia (it was ‘overwhelmed’) than the EU was (“NEBE has lost control of the counting.”) Damn straight it was overwhelmed. So overwhelmed that it declared the EPRDF the clear winner… um, before all the votes were counted.

We all remember that the opposition contested the results, and thus the Complaints Investigations Panels was born. How did the CIP resolve this conflict? Gash Yamomoto?

The European Union report on the elections asserted that
over 90% of the CUD complaints were rejected as opposed to only 30% for the ruling party. It

That can’t be good. Mr. Yamomoto, your assessment, please, of these here CIPs:

It seems clear that the CRB/CIP process did not prove an adequate
means for a fair resolution of all electoral disputes.

Good day, sir! Since the CIPs (created under the NEBE) were miserable failures, any solutions? Perhaps from the Carter Center?

The Carter Center recommended that in this instance, and until the NEBE gains the maturity to resolve political disagreements, the opposition refer these cases to the High Court for adjudication.

Hm. Funny you mention that. Would it be at all a problem that the head of the NEBE is also president of the Ethiopian Supreme Court?

Picky, picky, picky.

Okay. Here’s the money quote:

On the overall assessment of the elections, we agree with the final report, which noted that the elections had credibility and that majority of the constituency results based on the May 15 polling and tabulation are credible and reflect competitive conditions.

If this isn’t the best “Don’t make me say these elections were rigged”—ever! Of course the elections had credibility. 80% of Ethiopians stood in line for hours, fergozsake. It’s the results that people are contesting. Note how he phrases the results: “that majority of the constituency results based on the May 15 polling and tabulation are credible and reflect competitive conditions.” Can you imagine how many State Department underlings agonized over that statement? Its eloquent reluctance, its purposeful half-heartedness, its magnificent lack of enthusiasm, its foreboding deniability index … lawyers everywhere are rejoicing.

Suddenly, I want to hug The Yamomoto.

So, what does this say to the Prime Minister Meles who promised us elections, “not just free and fair by African standards, but by any standards”? Don’t you worry your pretty little head. Two-bit spinners in Melesocracy will find comfort in those words. Heck, you remember all the euphoria about Tony Blair’s sound bite that these elections were “the most free and fair”? No one stopped to think that “the most free” doesn’t mean free.

In my humble opinion, the State Department has come a long way. Yamomoto’s words reflect the strongest stance the US has made on the Ethiopian elections and its bloody aftermath. Diplomatically, this seems the furthest the State Department is willing to go at this time, but the day is young. Someone will eventually tire of the EPRDF’s intransigence.

Despite our belief that elections results overall were generally credible the
United States was deeply concerned about the 31 seats that went to a re-vote on August 21. The ruling party won all 31 seats, even among constituencies where the opposition had won a significant majority during May 15 balloting.

Oops. It seems like someone has already started tiring.

While public protests aimed at destabilizing the country
are objectionable, there is no excuse for mass arrests and the use of lethal force against civilians who wish to express their opposition to their government.

This is a big shift, almost seismic, compared to the USChargé d'Affaires’ and U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer’s frustratingly tepid handling of the Ethiopian government. And may I say, phew.

Of particular concern to the United States are the early-November arrests
of much of the Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD) leadership, along with prominent members of civil society, journalists, editors, and publishers.

And in case you don’t think the upgrade is genuine, consider Ms. Frazer’s statements in December 2005:

But you also need oppositions to act responsibly as well; responsibly in terms of respecting the rule of law when they are demonstrating. There were some demonstrators who were pelting the police in Ethiopia with stones. Well, this is not acceptable, but freedom of assembly, freedom of expression, clearly.

But it is also important, as I said, for the opposition not to sort of push demonstrators to pick up stones and rocks and to pelt the police and to overrun the police and to undermine the sanctity of property and respect of the laws.

Pelting with stones… responding with live ammunition… you do the math.

But are you like me? Do you get edgy in the absence of platitude?

… the Administration calls on the Government of Ethiopia to ensure a fair,
transparent, and speedy trial for those charged, release of those who have not been charged, and protection of the human rights, health, and safety of all detainees while they remain in detention.

But who will mass arrest and generally terrorize the people while the Ethiopian government attends to ensuring human (cough!) rights?

Even Diaspora bashing was tempered.

Some interested groups, both within and beyond Ethiopian borders, seek
to undermine what is best for the nation of
Ethiopia, in favor of what they
perceive to be the best for themselves. They cast stones at their adversaries, while engaging in the very acts they accuse their rivals of pursuing.


If the Diaspora in the US sticks to moderates and keeps lobbying the US, soon there will be a Senate hearing and Condi herself might show up in Ethiopia advocating for democracy, Ayman Nour style.

Qrb new ye Ityopiya tnsae.

Other testimonies:

Dr. Meqdes Mesfin, Daughter of Professor Mesfin Wolde Mariam of Ethiopia

Mr. Obang O. Metho , Director of International Advocacy, Anuak Justice Council (AJC)

Andargachew Tsege Central Council Coalition for Unity
and Democracy Party

Lynn Fredriksson, Amnesty International

His Excellency Mr. Fesseha A. Tessema, Minister (Head of Political and Press Division at the Ethiopian Embassy) was scheduled to testify, according to the Committee on International Relations website… but there’s no link. Did someone forget to call the Ethiopian Embassy?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm the obnoxious anon from the last post. After reading this, I'm now into you. I feel so bi-polar.

3:45 PM, March 29, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


As usual you parse these words like it is nobodies business. But not all what has been said at this hearing are that cheerful. I think you may have over looked some of the negative points. You did not even have a link to the opening statement by the chairman of the hearing, congressman Chris Smith.

He equally blamed every one involved including EU monitoring team for the “perfect storm” of political discontent. I know, I know these politicians talk sooth. But we can't read in to it only when we want to. I think his read of the situation will have the most bering on what come out of these hearings. After all he is the author and sponsor of the proposed bill HR4423.

One point that I found an irony in his statement " ...their (the opposition that is) refusal to take many of the seats won in the election prevented many issues from effectively being addressed in the Parliament, including the appointment of judges and guarantees of freedom of the press." well this was supposedly on November. But he went on saying "During my visit to Addis last August, I met with Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, ... He went on to tell me that he had dossiers on all the opposition leaders and could arrest them for treason whenever he wanted. Thus, their arrests were all but certain even before the events that ostensibly led to their being incarcerated."

So, Wonk, what do you think of the opening statement. Are you gonna parse that too. I say we should not cherry pick just what we want to hear and cheer up ourselves. esu yazenaganal. I hate to see us talking about this 10yrs from now.

7:23 AM, March 30, 2006  
Blogger kuchiye said...

1. How does one get excited about the following Yamamoto comment being the harbinger to the end of Diaspora bashing? Isn’t it directed at the opposition?

Some interested groups, both within and beyond Ethiopian borders, seek
to undermine what is best for the nation of Ethiopia, in favor of what they
perceive to be the best for themselves. They cast stones at their adversaries, while engaging in the very acts they accuse their rivals of pursuing.

2. The opposition, particularly CUD, is nothing but moderate per its manifesto and public pronouncements. Down to the watered down 8 point precondition for joining parliament, the opposition displayed nothing but a steady desire to negotiate and compromise. Are you troubled that there are extremist forces that we should know about?

10:55 AM, March 30, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

you really know how to cheer yourself up. Nothing seem to have changed but you are nevertheless fooling yourself by interpreting things the way "you" want to see.
Clowded by hatred and distrust your dear CUD leaders have destroyed any chance of Ethiopia of having a "real" opposition.
It is sad because we are all loosers

12:18 PM, March 31, 2006  

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