By Seifeselassie Gebre 04-12-18
Following a relentless lobbying by certain US citizens of Ethiopian origin (a.k.a. Toxic Diaspora) who are hell-bent on proving their allegiance to their neo-liberal masters, numerous willfully ignorant and misguided US Congressmen, who are self-appointed advocates of democracy for the Ethiopian people, yesterday managed to pass an illegal, arrogant and shameful, albeit non-binding, bill labeled as HR-128 sponsored by Representative Christopher H. Smith from the state of New Jersey. This bill when it was first introduced back in Feb 2017 did not garner the needed votes, so why now (see 'conclusion' section for plausible reasons for the timing of this bill)? This bill will definitely be recorded in the history of Ethio-American relations as a turning point for the worse in the otherwise long and historic relationship between the two countries. Begs the question 'Is America a Friend or Foe?'
This bill is not only the latest demonstration of US's belligerence towards Ethiopia and a blatant meddling in the internal affairs of our Country but utter contempt for its sovereignty at the highest level. No international law allows the US Congress to possess extra-territorial jurisdiction and issue such illegal law on other sovereign countries such as Ethiopia. Except for their greedy and selfish neo-liberal interests, they don't even have the slightest concern for their own citizens particularly African-Americans and Hispanics at home let alone for a proud people thousands of miles away. Their behavior is driven by their sinister hegemonic desire to dominate others and sheer superpower arrogance stemming from 'exceptional and indispensable nation' status they arrogate to themselves. One thing should be crystal clear; HR-128 has nothing to do with the issues of freedom, human/democratic rights or political space in Ethiopia what so ever. These are all covers to mislead the public opinion of innocent Ethiopians and the international community at large. It has all to do with their determination to pressure, arm-twist, and force Ethiopian leadership to abandon its current very successful "independent foreign policy" and " developmental state economic policies" in favor of their bankrupt and failed neo-liberal ideology. They consider Ethiopia's success as a "bad" precedent to other African and Third World countries. Ethiopia's policies, which are all solely designed to safeguard its national interests, are clearly becoming obstacles to the Western neo-liberal forces from mercilessly exploiting the abundant natural resources and huge market of our Country. Credit is due to EPRDF leadership for its wise and farsighted vision and strategic objectives which it has brilliantly executed bringing Ethiopia to center stage of world economic and geo-political landscape. Ethiopia's achievements are attested to by none other than the World Bank and IMF neither of which could hardly be considered as Ethiopia's developmental partners. Ideally, the West wants to perpetuate stagnant economies led by corrupt vassal leaders across Africa and much of the rest of the developing world so that its supremacy is unrivalled and unchallenged. That's why the emergence of China in particular not only as an economic powerhouse but also its genuine desire to engage in win-win economic cooperation in Africa has ruffled the feathers of western dominated financial institutions. Former Secretary of State Tillerson openly criticized China's vision of 'national sovereign economic development' during his recent trip to Africa. His audacity to claim that Chinese development model is not sustainable is laughable at best for there is no sustainable development without the critical infrastructure to support it. One can ask the average Joe on the street to cite examples of some of the Chinese supported infrastructures in the country and they would very easily point to quite a few (Interstate Highways, Dams, Addis Ring Road, Industrial Parks, AU Headquarters, Addis-Djibouti, Dibaba Hospital to name a few). All of the above mentioned landmark infrastructures are the pillars of sustainable development Mr. Secretary. Ask the same question on the street regarding USA's contributions to Ethiopia's 'sustainable development,' and they would be hard pressed to come up with a single example of US's benevolent act or sizable investment in this regard. They have however given us surplus grain and powdered milk in the past which would have otherwise ended up in cattle ranches or garbage bins. The Chinese on the other hand are our number one developmental strategic partners without which our current economic and social progress would have been unthinkable. The bottom line is Ethiopia's only 'crimes' are its nationalist political and economic policies. While democratic rights and political space are all important issues that require proper addressing, they should, however, be home-grown but not coerced and imposed from outside. Their latest evil campaign against our Country is very much coordinated with certain self-appointed and pseudo human rights advocates such as "Amnesty International", "Human Rights Watch", "Freedom House", etc. and fake news media outlets such as BBC, VOA Amharic, CNN and of course the fake news factories, ESAT and OMN whose real and sole agenda is to advance the bankrupt and failed policies of neo-"liberalism at the expense and destruction of poor developing countries such as Ethiopia. The current passing of HR128 was well coordinated by a few but vocal individuals (naturalized US citizens of Ethiopian origin) who do not have any business or legal right to comment let alone meddle in the internal affairs of Ethiopia as they are pure foreigners who renounced their Ethiopian citizenship a long time ago for economic gains. These sellouts and "useful idiots" of the neo-liberal forces are so intoxicated with excessive hatred and boundless lust for power that they do not hesitate to offer their Country to the highest bidder if they believe it would lead them to achieve their unattainable wild dreams. When a US citizen of Ethiopian origin lobbies a US lawmaker to impose sanctions on Ethiopian Government, we consider it blatant meddling since the lobbyists and the lawmakers are both US citizens. All these groups have been working day and night separately and in unison to force Ethiopia, which follows the economic path of "developmental state" economic system into their bankrupt and failed camp of neo-liberal economic and social order so that they would be in a position to exploit its abundant natural resources and huge market or face the fate of disobedient countries such as Libya, Syria, Iraq, Yemen.
These disruptive forces have endlessly called for the lifting of the state of emergency that was recently issued to quell and bring back peace and normalcy to our Country which it has already done so and for repealing the "Charities and Societies" and "Anti-terrorism" proclamations so that they would get complete liberty and free hand to foment divisions, unrest and disturbances in our Country and accomplish their evil missions through their infamous but by now exposed destructive strategy of "color revolutions" and "regime changes" like what they did to the unfortunate peoples of Libya, Syria, Iraq, etc.
These lawmakers didn't even see it necessary to give the newly-elected PM Dr. Abiy Ahmed enough time to demonstrate his leadership skills because their agenda is different from what they preached from the very beginning. Perhaps they wrongly, as they so often are, assumed this is the perfect time to intimidate and put pressure on the new PM in hopes of extracting some concessions that they can throw at their foot soldiers. There is no surprise that double standards have always been the modus operandi of American foreign policy under successive US Administrations. These Congressmen never considered to initiate any such draft law against notorious dictatorial regimes of Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Eritrea or condemn or even utter a word about the extended state of emergencies in France, Egypt and Turkey because they are all their obedient puppets. Furthermore, it was the American Government that has been keeping and operating many notorious prisons and torture chambers around the World such as Guantanamo Bay and Abu Graib prisons to conduct secret, inhumane, and cruel investigations on suspects outside the radars of international media and in contraventions with its own "American values" and relevant international laws on torture. It is also the USA that has been terrorists' safe-haven and harboring and assisting many Ethiopian terrorist groups such as Ginbot-7, OLF and Juhar Mohamed's group who are openly preaching ethnic hatred, inciting deadly violence and trying to overthrow the legitimate and democratic Government by terror and force of arm from their comfortable sanctuaries in US cities of course with the tacit and covert support of the American establishments. This should not be a surprise as the USA is not known for pacifying countries to stability but rather it is infamous for amplifying certain humanitarian/ democratic shortcomings of 'non-vassal' countries (in the name of democracy) and for causing violence, chaos, civil war and state collapse as in the case of Libya, Iraq, Syria and this is what the USA is wishing and pushing for our country. The USA does not possess the legal right or claim the moral high ground to talk let alone dictate the state of affairs of Ethiopia's human and democratic rights. In a way, their current hostile Congressional actions clearly demonstrated that Ethiopia's economic and foreign policies are indeed free and independent which its genuine citizens should be proud of.
HR128 sponsors erroneously believe they picked an opportune moment to insert themselves in the national discourse and sway our leadership's position in the direction most amenable to US's foreign policy agenda. It is quite obvious that at this point, US is working tirelessly to undermine and disrupt the success of the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative (BRI, also known as the new Silk Road) which passes through Ethiopia which is the designated critical gateway into Africa with the Addis-Djibouti railway being one of the arteries for this ambitious project.
HR128 urges our government to listen and engage the citizens in important development issues etc. It is the height of hypocrisy coming from a country that never engages its citizenry but only its lobbyists in deciding important national issues such as healthcare, education, environment, privacy, campaign financing, wars of aggression, etc. In most third world countries, lobbying (euphemistic word for bribery) lawmakers is done under the table and it is considered bribery but in the US it is legal and institutionalized. The Congressmen who authored and voted on HR128 will be well advised to take a break from meddling and walk over to the well-stocked congressional library and read up about Ethiopian history. They will no doubt find that Ethiopia has never been a 'colony' or a 'neo-colony', and will never be a 'neoliberal colony either
However, it is quite refreshing to see some lawmakers such as Senator Inhofe who had the courage to speak the truth by chastising the bill as nothing more than an opportunistic interference at a time Ethiopia finds itself at a critical juncture. The honorable thing for the congressmen would have been to congratulate the new PM and also applaud and commend the peaceful transfer of power that was made possible by (1) EPRDF's time-tested internal deliberation and selection process for power transition, (2) the timely imposition of the State of Emergency that gave the government enough time to hash out its differences and reach a consensus regarding the selection of a new leader.
It should by now be abundantly clear to those that have been paying attention that USA has been pursuing a double-track policy towards Ethiopia since the coming to power of EPRDF in 1991. On the one hand, USA pretends to be a genuine friend and ally of Ethiopia (recent donation of Airport security screening equipment being an example of a token carrot) while on the other, it has been acting in a hostile manner by undermining and sabotaging our national security interests by harboring and letting loose openly hostile forces on social media and radio broadcast to spew venomous propaganda against Ethiopia from the comfort of their homes in the US. It is unfortunate that at a time when the US's former allies are dropping like flies and its sphere of influence shrinking worldwide, the last thing the US Congressmen should be doing is meddle in the internal affairs of not only a proud and truly independent nation like Ethiopia, but also a true and longtime ally of the US.
Finally, my earnest advice to our 'concerned' US congressmen is that Ethiopia has always pursued a peaceful balance in its geopolitical alliances with both East and West, albeit slightly tilted to the West. However, if current US foreign policy towards Ethiopia does not change course for the better soon, Ethiopia will have no choice but to urgently realign itself geopolitically with those that still believe in international law, mutual respect, the sanctity of sovereignty and non-interference, and also subscribe to the idea of a genuine win-win partnership.
Hence, I wish to offer my humble advice to EPRDF leadership as follows:
(a) It would be an understatement to say that despite its remarkable achievements in various sectors, EPRDF has been asleep at the wheel when it comes to public relations. The power of public relations has never been greater or more important than now thanks to media technologies that allow instantaneous dissemination of real and fake news alike to millions of audiences across the world. It is imperative that our diplomats and public relations officers both at the MoFA and in our overseas Embassies should immediately initiate a worldwide comprehensive public relations campaign (interactive town hall meetings, Radio, TV, Social Media, print media) to reach out to Ethiopians living abroad so as to raise awareness of Ethiopia's current economic, political, and social developments and challenges, expose and discredit, in real time, fabricated stories disseminated by these forces by countering with true facts in a timely manner so that they would not get a free ride to mislead and brainwash the innocent and unsuspecting public specially the youth as they have been doing for the past three years;
(b) Instead of pursuing "silent and reactive diplomacy," FDRE leadership should adopt “proactive, unwavering, and resolute stance” in dealing with belligerent and hostile public statements and belligerent actions coming from unfriendly countries;
(c) FDRE leadership should summon the American ambassador and demand to know why this unwarranted and illegal bill (HR-128) had to be voted on especially at this delicate and critical political juncture. Our leadership under PM Abiy should make it clear to the ambassador that this hostile act is blatant interference in the internal affairs of Ethiopia and a serious infringement of its sovereignty. It should also make known to the American Ambassador that Ethiopia as a sovereign state would review its existing overall relationship with the USA in due course in light of the current hostile initiatives of the US Congress including unilaterally reducing the size and level of its diplomatic relations and freezing of its anti-terrorism and other cooperation agreements in the future. If the US lawmakers based their final deliberations and votes on what they were fed through diplomatic cables originating from Addis, then the US embassy and its local cohorts should be put on notice that its relations with certain hostile local groups and its movements will be severely curtailed as the US State Department's routinely does on numerous occasions to limit the movements of diplomats that it viewed as hostile.
(d) Knowing from its nature and past history that the US government will not cease and desist from meddling in our internal affairs. FDRE leadership should urgently review its foreign policy objectives specially regarding major big powers and seriously consider forging a very strong and mutually beneficial economic and security/defense relationships with China and Russia in order to safeguard its national security interests. As the saying goes, there is no permanent friendship but only permanent interest.
(e) The current state of emergency, albeit belatedly, was decreed after much public outcry following the loss of innocent lives, destruction of property, and disruption of peaceful daily lives of ordinary citizens. As long as it is the only guarantee of peace and security in this country, it should not be subject to premature reversal regardless of sinister domestic outcries and outside pressure to do so.
May God bless and protect Ethiopia.