Staged conferences and interviews are diversion and detraction to sustain the status qua, not to promote democracy
April 29, 2019
They say there are two sides for every story. Unfortunately, the untold story of the blindfolded and gauged people Ethiopia remained captive by nonother than the elites and their sponsors more so by the self-ordained political representatives’ quest to sustain a grab for illegitimate power and resources of the people
The recent conspicuously staged conference sponsored by the National Endowment for Democracy titled “Ethiopia’s Democratic Opening One Year Later: Looking Back and Looking Ahead” is a good illustration of selective amnesia of what democracy means and how contemporary elites and sponsors are willfully ignorant to circle around the symptoms of dictatorship bot to address the causes
As they say, charity begins at home. NED that was established with a stated mission of ‘promoting democracy abroad’ not only miserably failed when it comes to transparency of its operation and grant making but, making recipient organizations and their leaders transparent and accountable at the expenses of the democratic rights of the people of Ethiopia and American taxpayers.
The participating organizations’ leaders pose as independent when the record show otherwise wasn’t by accident either. Their indifference on institutional transparency and accountability on themselves and each other speaks for themselves.
After all, unlike we are led to believe; dictatorship at every level is nothing more than lack of institutional transparency and accountability to the public. Unfortunately, the indifference persisted to the benefit of dictatorship and at the expenses of the people.
Moreover, ethnic apartheid system complicated matters further — creating mini dictatorships within dictatorship and made it more difficult for institutional transparency and accountability to take root and for democratic reform to have any traction.
The NED conference began with the host expressing his concerns on the ongoing ethnic conflicts and displacement and the opportunity for “an opening – a breakthrough for the end of dictatorship and the possibility for democracy” but, came short of “looking back” where and how the 27-years-old ethnic apartheid ‘dictatorship’ and mini dictatorship within nor who was responsible for it. ‘Looking back’ also didn’t include successive US Administrations’ officials’, including the Former Senior National Security Adviser Susan Rise and the Former USAID Administrator Gale Smith of the Obama Administration that made EPDRF ‘dictatorship’ possible since the Clinton Administration in mid-90s. Unfortunately, NED’s ‘looking back’ also ignored President Obama’s unfaithful endorsement of the ruling ‘ethnic dictatorship’ as ‘democratically elected government of Ethiopia’ for winning the May 2015 election by 100% of the votes.
Therefore, NED’s staged conference not only failed to ascertain the cause of Ethiopian ‘dictatorship’ at the expenses of the one-year old reformist PM but, left the big elephant in the ‘conference’ room (USAID that finance the dictatorship for decades) represented by unidentified women unaccountable from answering questions as panelist instead of asking as audience. It spoke loud on NED’s indifference on institutional transparency and individual accountability.
The two-dozen grant recipients organizations on NED official website listed, including the two panelists’ run organizations for fiscal year 2018 (the latest and only year available) with undisclosed officers is a testimony. The long-time established ‘Peace and Development Center’ is among the pitiful organizations NED funds in a no-peace-no-development-no democracy nation of Ethiopia.
Among the four panelists at the conference were the President of The Confederacy of Ethiopian Trade Unions Kassahun Follo Amanu with $278, 775 grants for fiscal year 2018 despite of not disclosing the Officers and Board of Directors of the organization on its official Facebook page (no official website is found) and in spite of “being controlled by the government” not to mention Amare Alemayehu is the President of the organization according Wikipedia. And, The Executive Director of African Civic Leadership Program Ltd. Seife Ayalew with grant of $60, 590 for the fiscal year 2018 despite of not disclosing its officers and any worthy information on its activities on its official website since it was established in 2016.
The third panelist is Yoseph Badwaza (known on twitter as Yoseph Mulugeta) representing Freedom House was not completely forthcoming introducing himself either. His profile at the Freedom House indicate; he is “Senior Program Officer for Ethiopia at Freedom House. Prior to joining Freedom House, he was Secretary General of Ethiopian Human Right Council (EHRCO, now HRCO)” according to Freedom House. Four articles from April of 2015 to Sept of 2018 is provided under his profile at the Freedom House.
The Ethiopian Human Right Council (HRCO) was hijacked by the regime and renamed HRCO.
The 2010 Human Rights Watch’s Alison Des Forges Award recipient assumed ‘EHRCO leadership in July of 2007’ and, “fearing for his, life, Mulugeta applied for and was granted asylum in the United States”, according to Human Rights Watch.
It is clear for one-and-all by now, emancipating the people of Ethiopia from ‘dictatorship’ is NOT what motivate many contemporary elites and their sponsors by their own actions-and-inactions as they continue to defy accountability to any one and pivot the reality with impunity.
But, way before the ‘opening – breakthrough for end of dictatorship and the possibility for democracy’, ‘looking back’, where and how the dictatorship started and constructed should have come first before ‘is discussed but, that wasn’t meant to be, thanks to contemporary elites’ and their sponsors’ the cart before the horse’ engagement.
As the result, Ethiopia become a nation of victims by, to, for the elites and their sponsors’ privilege for power and resources. Thus, conscience among self-serving elites became a substitute for consent of the governed — making a mockery of democratic reform.
In the era sound bit and diversion propaganda mostly by pseudo journalists and scholars, no research we can think of put spotlight and summarized the sources and methods of EPDRF ‘ethnic dictatorship’ of the last 27 years led by the self-professed ethnic minority ruling member party of the Tigray People Liberation Front (TPLF) before the new ‘reformist’ PM took over last year than Professor Berhanu Abgaz of College of William & Mary’s in a working paper titled Political Parties in Business published in April of 2011.
The paper makes compelling findings on the inner working of EPRDF Developmental State Dictatorship unlike anything known in convictional political economy.
In ‘concluding observation’ the author remarked;
“The phenomena of party owned for-profit business (Parbus) is ultimately about “the power to create more power” that arise from total capture, by a vanguard party, of key state and societal institutions.”
If that is the case as the whole world agreed and confirmed, the public obliviousness arises either from TPLF operatives and sponsors’ detraction and diversion disguised as non-actors to sustain the vanguard party from the necessary reform of freeing “key state and societal institutions” captured or interest group no matter who the vanguard party may be; their interest comes first than the public interest.
With all the noises coming from all direction, one sure thing for one-and-all Ethiopian are the self-ordained representatives of Ethiopians in the ethnic apartheid Tigray Region under the politburo central committee of the Tigray People Liberation Front (TPLF) that declared they won’t relinquish “key state and societal institutions’ of Ethiopia captured; not only to accumulate more political and economic power but, to use the blindfolded and gauged Ethiopians they held hostage in the Region as a shield to maintain their hegemony.
The competing self-appointed ethnic counterparts in half-a-dozen ethnic Regions are not far behind in their quest to recapture “key state and societal institutions’ – causing havoc to achieve it by throwing the people of Ethiopia under the bus as collateral damage to achieve it.
To make matter worse, those organizations pose as ‘independent’ arbitral that supposed to make them accountable on behalf of the people of Ethiopia are captives themselves or missing in action — circling the symptom wagon (conflicts, displacements, insecurity…) to avoid tackling the cause (lack of transparency and accountability of those responsible for captured ‘state and societal institutions’.
NED’s staged conference and the panelists representing their respective organizations like many staged conferences continue to miss ‘the forest for the tree’ not by accident but by design.
The small US government agency NED and affiliates are not alone. USAID, VOA, African Foundation… and their equals in donor countries as well as non-governmental and multilateral organizations and foundations like UNDP, IMF, ECA, the Gates Foundation and affiliates are major offenders when it comes to their indifference on institutional transparency and accountability of their leaders.
More importantly, ‘Media’ establishments that are responsible for insuring leaders of government agencies, nongovernmental organizations and ‘private’ entities are transparent and accountable in the public interest not only missing-in-action but, for the most part are captives themselves.
Journalism profession that ‘provide something unique to a culture: independent, reliable, accurate and comprehensive information that citizen requires to be free’ is nowhere to be found—making it impossible to find out who-is-who undermining reform.
Some consequential ‘journalists’ of local Medias standout than others in violating the essence of journalism. For instance, the ruling member TPLF party captured Walta and Fana Broadcasting as well as the ruling collation party EPRDF captured Federal Broadcasting Agencies’, including the Federal Ethnic Regions’ Broadcasting Agencies’ journalists continue to do more harm than good to the public undermining reform.
Likewise, political pundits masquerading as Free Press journalists pandering for the usual suspects are even worse than the obvious party-captured Media establishments. Ebs (Ethiopian Broadcasting Service) established by clandestine TPLF operatives out of the State of Maryland and the various online PR outlets comes in mind.
When it comes to foreign Medias journalists, nothing comes close violating the public trust than the US government funded Voice of America (VOA) Amharic, Afan Oromo and Tigrinya programs’.
Established during the Cold War to broadcast outside the US to counter the communist block propaganda was forbidden by law not to broadcast for American audience even though often violated by Ethiopian-American journalists broadcasting for the diaspora in the native languages since TPLF led ethnic apartheid regime came to power in 1991. Now VOA can officially broadcast in the United States under the newly enacted National Defense Authorization Act of 2017 passed by Republican majority Congress and signed by President Obama without notice.
Therefore, ever since and for the first time in the history of the Republic, US government operated VOA broadcasts in the United States since 2017.
Incidentally, besides broadcasting in three Ethiopian languages, VOA broadcasts only in Swahili (spoken in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania) and Somali (spoken in Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia) as well as Shona, Kirundi and Ndebele (bantu languages spoken in Zimbabwe), Kinyarwanda (Urufumbira language spoken in Rwanda, Uganda and DRC) and Hausa language of Chad in the entire continent of Africa.
Regardless, government run Media and ruling party affiliated Media ‘journalists’ violating journalism code is given and expected around the world. But, posing as Ethiopian national journalists and using U.S. government Media like VOA to collude with foreign diplomat not only is a violation of journalism code but, U.S. Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA) as well as sworn obligation of citizens to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States from domestic and foreign foes – rampant among Ethiopian American VOA journalists.
The recent staged interview conducted by Solomon Abate of Voice of America Amharic program with the newly appointed Ethiopian Ambassador to US Fesume Arega illustrates; violation of journalism code and the law is business as the usual.
It is not clear why Solomon Abate failed to do due diligence on the background of the new Ethiopian Ambassador not to inform the public accurately. The Former Addis Ababa Investment and Ethiopian Investment Commissioner responsible for who can or not invest in Ethiopia for the last two decades, not to mention he worked for various key government agencies prior and until PM Abiy took over the premiership of the ruling party.
Arega that briefly served as Spokesperson/Chief-of-Stuff of the new PM Abiy has a long unholy relationship with the ruling party EPRDF member TPLF in the last two decades before he was appointed to Washington as Ambassador.
The UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) better documented the new Ambassador profile than his own public profile, the Office of the Prime Minster that appointed him and local as well as foreign Medias like VOA and The Washington Post that escorted him since he came to the US.
For instance, in a recent high profile Press Freedom Forum sponsored by The Washington Post in the Nation capital, the new Ambassador’s background was completely ignored by the Washington Post host that invited him as a panelist with the Sweden Ambassador to the U.S. and by all participating mainstream journalists, NGOs’ representatives and foreign diplomats present.
Moreover, under the Former Investment Commissioner Fesume Arega watch, the US Department of Commerce — 2018 Export.org Report titled Ethiopia — Market Challenges that stipulated; “state owned eneteprises and ruling political party-owned entities dominate the economy landscape” and the 2012 World Bank Report titled Diagonalizing Corruption in Ethiopia: Precipitation, reality and the way forward for key sectors that stipulated; party-owned enterprises’ dominance and corruption and the Ethiopian Times’ 2012 Report titled Ethiopia is Looted by EFFORT and TPLF business Empire“, Solomon Abate of VOA nor The Washington Post host to skip all his background and ‘accomplishments’ to present him as an innocent reformist Ambassador speaks volumes on the indifference or conspiracy of ‘prominent’ Media journalists and civic organizations leaders as well as foreign government agencies.
A year out, the new PM appears either not to understand or appreciate yet; citizens require ‘independent, reliable, accurate and comprehensive information’. The indifference of the proponent of his reform when it comes to transparency and accountability of public information on ‘key state-party captured institutions’ that undermine the very reform he embarked is astonishing to say the least.
The Ethiopian Embassy in the most consequential Nation in the world where the PM called for diasporas engagement and contribution to help poor compatriots at home to appoint the most elusive cadre as an Ambassador is not a good sign to build confidence in the diaspora on the reform effort either.
The Embassy official website that doesn’t provide any worthy information to begin with remained under the same old regime’s operatives doing the same old propaganda one year since the reform began under the new PM. Ironically, since the new Ambassador arrived, he is everywhere but not on the official website of the Embassy he is appointed to as of the end of April 2019 beside the staged interview conducted by Solomon Abate of VOA where the Ambassador mumbling incoherently about peace and stability, the economy, gender equality and the Diasporas Trust Fund.
Unfortunately, The Diaspora Trust Fund that rely on the new Ambassador leadership to succeed is further faltered with the incoherent message coming from him and the conflicting information coming from the government to bring abroad the silent majority.
For instance, in July 10, 2018 after the Trust Fund was established, a South African based African News report titled Commercial Bank of Ethiopia woos Diaspora with Mortgage Loans, About 10 month later on April 4, 2019 the same African News report titled Inside Ethiopia PM’s Economic Reforms claimed; “a diaspora fund was also opened to ask Ethiopians living abroad to contribute towards easing the foreign exchange crises”– contradicting with Diaspora Trust Fund mission of helping poor compatriots with the diasporas’ fund deposited in the same Bank in ‘separate account as well as the Chairman of the Trust Fund Prof Al Mariam official statement.
The Chairman, in his recent article titled the Chicken Little Prophets of Doom and Gloom: Ethiopia is a Rising State and Nation! rightly highlighted the impressive accomplishments of PM Abiy reform so far and his commitment to defend it but, lost the forest for the tree by pointing at the ‘Chickens Little Prophets’ instead of what feeds them.
Prof Al must not be familiar with the African proverb; ‘Maize cannot get justice in a chicken court’ to make a long rant about Chicken Little Prophets … (the symptoms) than the cause (lack of institutional transparency and individual accountability from all). After all, the goal of the reform he put his reputation online regardless of the leader is institutional transparency and individual accountability to free the people of Ethiopia from dictatorship.
Quite frankly, Prof Al putting ‘the cart before the horse’ to engage his contemporary counterparts is not helping the reform he bravely put his reputation online to defend. In fact, he isn’t any different than the ‘Chicken little Prophets’ of blind faith and fortune followers –reinforcing; Ethiopia became a nation of victims by, to, for the elites’ entitlement to decide the fate of our people without their consent.
With all sincerity, for a person of Al Mariam academic credential in Constitutional law and Political Science and as educator to throw it under the bus is disheartening to watch.
In his ‘the means justify the end rant’ in defense of the PM reform, the world presses suddenly become the same old BBC, Financial Times, The Washington Post and CNN and the same World Bank data as evidence to charge “the dotard prophets of doom and gloom” and ‘pushing 70s’ a crime punishable.
No one knows how western press became the world press and what ‘collective guilty by old age association’ has to do with due process of law and individual accountability. Nor, no one understand what has happened to the free speech crusader Prof Al that apply for the notorious warlord Melse Zenawi no longer available for ‘the dotard prophets’ ?
The unnamed individuals that triggered Prof Al rant about failed state also put the reader in a required course to educate us the meaning of ‘failed state’. At the end of the course; he rightly confirmed; “Ethiopia was state captured by the TPLF and as a captive state failed miserably!”.
Unfortunately, the whole rant was about Ethiopia ‘was’ or is a failed state to the satisfaction of the Judge-Professor where the overwhelming evidence he presented against the unnamed individuals he referred ‘Chicken little Prophets of doom and gloom’ to find them guilty as charged in his kangaroo court of. Opinion was the government of Ethiopia — defying not only the very due process of law and free speech of the reformist PM Abiy Al claim to defends but, presenting evidence unverifiable by independent party.
Notwithstanding, the ruling EPDRF member party TPLF led by the same notorious warlords that ‘captured’ the state still operating with impunity at least in ‘Tigray Region’ and, granted, evidence gathering in captured state in transition is hard to come by, for Judge –Prof Al to present most if not all of the evidence from one source the government of Ethiopia speaks; ‘Trust Us’ is the elites surrounding the PM is the new cycle Ethiopians should expect to go through.
“I care about the fact which I have laid out above. DEAL WITH IT” wrote at the end.
Splitting the meaning of ‘fact’ as Prof did with ‘failed state’ and source of evidence is not necessary here. But, Professor of law Al would be better off to stick with the law he knows best that stipulates ‘trust me’ nor unverifiable evidence by independent party is not acceptable in court of law, nor in the economy, not even in the class room.
A person is judged by what he does not by what he says. PM Abiy did what he said will do in some and failed another and will take responsibility for it. As the Chairman of the Diaspora Trust Fund Prof Al did what he said will do in some and failed another and will take responsibility for it. That is called accountably. Two wrong don’t make it right. DEAL WITH IT!.
After all, acknowledging PM Abiy’s accomplishments based on verifiable evidence is one thing, cheering for unverifiable shining object that won’t do an iota of difference for the PM or his reform nor, the people of Ethiopia is all noise.
If the PM’s reform can’t free key state and societal institutions captured by TPLF led offenders; what good would it do for the people of Ethiopia? After all, reform is about the right, liberty and consent of the people not for the ruling party in transition, not the elites (diaspora or not), not for investor (domestic or foreign).
If civic organizations can’t be forthcoming in disclosing their officers and their conflict of interest to the public, what good can they do for the reform but, for themselves? After all, as the saying goes; ‘one hour in the execution of justice is worth seventy-years of prayer’.
If journalists can’t provide ‘independent, reliable, accurate and comprehensive information’ that citizen requires to be free’ what good could they do for the people but, interest groups? After all, “journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed: everything else is public relations” as Orwell alluded.
As PM Minster Abiy reform is underway so more conferences of known and unknown institutions’ and interviews by Medias journalists with known and unknown ‘experts will be held to promote or undermine the reform. Each should be judged by their track records and transparency to the public independently verified.
For many Ethiopian elites, silence is a preferred choice not to speak up on things that matter most better described by; “Your life begins to end the moment you start being silent about the things that matter” Dr. Martin Luther King, JR. For the citizens of convenience elites, as the renowned Astrophysicist’ Dr Nail DeGrasse Tyson put it; “the only thing worse than a blind follower is a seeing denier”. And, for the blind follower elites, no one describes them better than s the American fantasy and science fiction writer of Seth Dickinson who wrote “Trust, like money needed a grantee to back it”
The relatively few elites left to carry the burden on their shoulders for Ethiopians’ rights to know their affairs are scrambling to be heard overwhelmed and outspent by the loudest noises the usual suspects.
Is that note, no matter how anyone slice-and-dice it, the most important thing that matter to the blindfolded people of Ethiopia by the usual suspects is the Right to Know their Affairs. Everything else is a whitewash to nowhere.
The era of what is good for the elites and their sponsors is good for the blindfolded people of Ethiopia should and must end now or never. PM Abiy reform’s very survival depends on it
Ethiopians should not accept anything less than complete transparency and accountability from all domestic or foreign parties involved to insure; the aspiration for liberty, freedom and democracy of the people won’t be hijacked again.
The article is dedicated to all Ethiopians that refused to be bought-and-sold as modern slaves at the expenses of their people.