By Qeerransoo Biyyaa*
* How are key internal actors in Ethiopia big factors in denying freedom and democracy in Ethiopia?
* Will the ruling EPRDF/TPLF government use the upcoming elections to further legitimize its stranglehold on 93% of Ethiopians?
Five years, hundreds of dead bodies, thousands of imprisonments, disappearances, evictions and land confiscations later after the 2005 parliamentary elections, Ethiopia is yet to stage other sham elections for its total seats of 547 in the House People’s Representative – commonly known as the “national parliament” – in May 210.
The least obvious and tricky factors when discussing the complex Ethiopian political turmoil are the roles of key international actors in thwarting the freedom and democracy Ethiopians have been long yearning for. Naming and identifying the influences of these key actors is no longer a myth or speculation. As we know it and as the 2009 Human Rights Watch World Report makes it clear, they are two relatively wealthy and democratic western nations. They are the United States of America and the United Kingdom. Many in Ethiopia worry that financial assistance from these two countries will be used to shatter the freedom and democracy they yearned for in the coming May 2010 national elections as in the previous three parliamentary elections the country had held. I would like to quote a relevant text from the Human Rights Watch (HRW) report to illustrate and argue how foreign funding from the UK and the U.S. makes Ethiopian human rights records not only poor, but also non-existent in all its dimensions be it election and political repression, war crimes by the Ethiopian military forces, regional refugee renditions, civil society and free expression, inter alia:
The United States and European donor states provide the Ethiopian government with large sums of bilateral assistance, including direct budgetary support from the United Kingdom and military assistance from the US. The US is Ethiopia’s largest bilateral donor and has also provided logistical and political support for Ethiopia’s protracted intervention in Somalia, and provides bilateral assistance to the Ethiopian military.
The report states donor governments view Ethiopia as an ally in an unstable region and, in the case of the US, in the “global war on terror.” Western countries erroneously assume Ethiopia is a stable country, but fail to acknowledge the fact that the Ethiopian government came to power through the barrel of the gun, killing and destroying everyone and everything in its way. It is a government that imposed itself on the 93% of Ethiopia, yet only is representative of the Tigre people who constitute about 7% of Ethiopian population. The consequence of the foreign aid did not just have the role of fighting extremism in Somalia, but also bred and nurtured a genetically distinct vampire state of Ethiopia that devours all others than its tribal base. HRW’s assessment of Ethiopia is not different from my own assertion – the government of Ethiopia was not and is not legitimate:
Ethiopia has among the worst human rights records in Africa. Its troops have used scorched-earth counterinsurgency policies, including strangling people and burning villages, to displace rural villagers (p.18).
To the extent that there is no room for exaggerations, the adjectives of world languages seem not to be enough to describe and carry the tone of the nature and magnitude of the destructive acts by EPRDF/TPLF ruling party in Ethiopia.
We talk about such problems not to make the key international actors in Ethiopia guilty, shameful and embarrassed, yet all of which are right to do, but to urge the actors to take actions and withdraw the direct financial aid they give to the Ethiopia’s regime. These actors need to break their silence about the despicable acts of this government.
I would not expect the U.S. and the UK to get physically involved in overthrowing the Ethiopian regime. To encourage democracy and freedom, the actors do not have to send drone aircraft to the Ethiopian palace in order to take out PM Meles Zenawi in a similar style of attack on terrorists. One wishes to indicate the dangers of supporting a vampire state unrepresentative of the wills of the majority of the peoples of Ethiopia, however.
The ruling party’s past behaviors are predictors of what one would expect in the May 2010 parliamentary elections. In the elections of 2005, many international observers, including the European Union election observers, reported that the elections “fell short of established international standards.” With all its absolute military, bureaucratic and financial powers, the Ethiopian government will declare itself the winner of the May 2010 parliamentary elections. The aftermaths are predictable: there will be scores of killings accompanied by mass arrests and imprisonments of prominent opposition leaders. It is easy to downplay these as the necessary symptoms of third world slow-paced democratization process, but there is more at stake.
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