In reply to Washington Post “After years of unrest, Ethiopians are riding an unlikely wave of hope. Will it last? By Paul Schemm”
Woldu Amanuel May 06, 2017
One of the repeated major mistakes some foreign journalists make when covering developing countries political development is their temerity to pretend to know anything and everything about the nation they write about. Frankly, such political behavior goes against the bedrock practice of democracy. As if the social, economic, security and political challenges, priorities and needs of all countries is identical, these writers subscribe phantom like subscriptions from afar, and this behavior has been repeatedly observed in many circumstances. Although countries differ due to the magnitudes of multiple challenges including to extrinsic factors and their limited ability to avert the danger to their national security, these journalists behave and act to know the cause to the underlying problem of the said countries and the solution. Worse of all, they claim anything basing on hearsay to the extent feigning to know more than the people of the country who reside among the society. In the light of reason, such unverifiable allegation has nothing to do with showing keen desire to see poor countries such as Ethiopia, that are affected due to multiple factors, including chaotic region, developed. In the 21st century, development is inseparable to democracy and respect to laws, and as we have learned from many experiences both essentials (democracy and law) do not pop up from the heavens but the product of painstaking continued work of the people. To the reader with thorough knowhow of Ethiopian politics, the Washington Post’s article is written without enough thoughts on the factuality of the accounts it makes.
In any matrix, Ethiopia’s marked development in all development venues is remarkable, and yet, there are foreign based forces who use democracy as a cover to replicate the grim pandemonium of the Arab Revolution in Ethiopia. And to justify their claim, they come up with any enticing accounts without making adequate investigative journalism work. Such irresponsible dismal work, goes against every democratic credo, and its intended outcome is designed to harm poor people who do not know the existence of The Washington Post, let alone to have the luxury of reading it. Further, such blatant account reflects deeply engraved condescension and bigot attitude of colonial mind. It is imperative, therefore, foreign journalists to refrain from concocting deliberate accounts on a country they do not have enough knowledge to support their allegations. Rumor or gossip cannot substitute observable facts on the ground. The more journalists behave and act as “slave masters” and demand certain application by countries that are poor, diverse and yet, struggling to create functional institutions, it leaves a huge question about their unstated objective.
The Tigreans the article alluded to were the very victims of hatemongers. In the recent incident, innocent and defenseless Tegarus were killed, injured, and forced to leave by the thousands to Sudan. Yet, the writer paints them as the privileged ones by the government! The Washington Post could not be that blind to miss the over 20 thousand Tigreans who fled to Sudan to escape certain lynching. The Washington Post should have looked at the many Tigreans jailed by the government for the same "alleged" crime others were jailed, yet highlighted on the Tigreans that are in the security and military apparatus, as if it means anything! The Washington Post could not be that blind to know the TPLF demobilized over 70 thousand of its fighters when the Derg was defeated so that to make room for other Ethnics! Although The Washington Post was reckless not to mention many relevant facts, it is important to note that today Tigreans make not more than 15% of the military! Further, the writer should have known the high number of military officers who have been retiring to make room for other officers at the top.
It is obvious, since the fall of the barbarous Derg, many old adversaries have been disseminating endless propagandas in consorted ways from afar. These forces have been camouflaged as democrats or human right advocates while planting poison from far and near, to bring a specific outcome. The tactic was perpetrated holistically to divide and weaken the republic so that specific countries of the region secure their interests. It is mindboggling to factually know that some of these forces are trained, sheltered and funded by those countries, and it is sad to see the Washington Post failed to their trap.
Another fact to mention, though those who use anything including democracy as a concealment to spread malicious propaganda work hard to mislead the novice, PM Abiy was elected by the EPRDF, and he will stand for Ethiopia’s betterment. His success depends on (1) how he has learned from his predecessor’s shortcomings in dealing in timely fashion with forces that have sinister political motives, and (2) on his ability to manage internal conflicts and in the endeavors to resuscitate the economy.
The Neo-Liberal amorphous economic theory is antithesis to peace and people focus national development in the 21st century. It has never been part of Ethiopia’s economic success of the past, and will never been the future. There is NO reason to believe at this point in time PM Abiy will be heeding the calls from the neo-liberals however, the people of Ethiopia should be prepared to confront these forces. It is important to expect those forces will come back with a vengeance when Ethiopia starts to develop its natural wealth once more. For now, PM Abiy should do all in his power to complete the Hedase Dam in time. Stopping the Dam is the emblematic manifestation of the forces that are drooling for power (remember the big white elephant?).
Simply put, the Washington Post’s article contains more fairy-tells than fact, and it has inadvertently maligned Tigreans as scapegoats to embolden and carry out a specific political desire. It is similar to the old Somali adage that says "this cry is for more than the dead goat" (ይቺ ልቅሶ ከ ፍየልዋ በላይ ነዉ).
Below is the full article.
By Paul Schemm May 6 at 7:30 AM
ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia — When Ethiopia’s prime minister for the past six years resigned in February, there was little reason to think his successor would be an improvement.
The country was under a state of emergency that followed a years-long state crackdown on opposition political activity. Thousands of activists and dissident journalists had been detained, and hundreds had died in demonstrations crushed by government forces.
Then came Abiy Ahmed, who at 42 is one of the youngest leaders on the continent. In his first month as Ethiopia’s premier, he has ushered in an unlikely wave of hope and even optimism in this close U.S. ally that serves as something of a linchpin to the stability of East Africa.
While ostensibly a democracy, Ethiopia is a highly centralized state with only the ruling party and its allies in Parliament. In recent years, however, unrest has grown, and on April 10, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution urging the government to increase its respect for human rights and the rule of law.
During his April 2 inauguration, Abiy acknowledged some of Ethiopia’s enduring problems in a riveting speech. He apologized for the deaths of protesters during demonstrations, welcomed differences of opinion and promised to heal the wounds between Ethiopia’s ethnic groups.
The accession of Abiy, who hails from the Oromo community, brought a sharp drop in tension. Since he came to office, Internet service has been restored to the countryside, charges against dozens of activists have been dropped, and Abiy has embarked on meetings around the country, listening to grievances and promising reform, including term limits for his position.
“As someone who grew up in Addis Ababa, one thing that is very foreign was seeing a prime minister come and organize town hall meetings and just sit down with people and discuss things,” said Zecharias Zelalem, a journalist and frequent commentator on Ethiopian affairs. “That has never happened, and it’s been going on for the past three weeks.”
Activists, many of whom were released in the days following Abiy’s inauguration, pronounced themselves “cautiously optimistic” that, at long last, Ethiopia may be changing.
“Our release means something. It is a signal for change, that he wants change,” said Eskinder Nega, a journalist who spent his childhood in Washington and had just spent six years in an Ethiopian prison for his writings.
He was released in February but detained again during the state of emergency a month later for meeting with friends — ironically in celebration of their earlier release. Ten of his colleagues were also arrested.
“But, ultimately, this is not what the nation wants,” Nega said. “The nation wants two things: the lifting of the state of emergency in the next 100 days and a call for an all-inclusive dialogue. This will set things right.”
“Right” is not where Ethiopia has been for the past three years, and its partners abroad have been worried. It is difficult to overstate the importance of Ethiopia to the stability of East Africa. It has the largest army in the region and the fastest-growing economy in Africa, and it is surrounded by disintegrating states such as Somalia and South Sudan.
This regional rock of stability has looked shaky in recent years, with persistent anti-government protests by the country’s largest ethnic group, the Oromos, as well as unrest among the second-largest community, the Amharas. At the same time, clashes between Oromos and the Somali ethnic group elsewhere in the country have left hundreds dead and displaced more than a million.
All this has been compounded by the return of devastating droughts that have put millions in need of food aid.
In the midst of this crisis, Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn resigned, and a state of emergency was declared as strikes erupted around the capital.
As soon as he took office, Abiy started visiting the centers of dissatisfaction. He went to the Oromo town of Ambo and complimented the young men at the forefront of the demonstrations for protecting democracy. He visited the Somali region to discuss the ongoing clashes that have displaced so many, and he journeyed north to the Tigray region, seen by many government critics as unfairly dominating the military and economy, to put the population at ease about having an Oromo in charge of the government.
He also met with opposition politicians and said he welcomed their views, seeing them as legitimate competition rather than enemies of the state.
In a speech before 20,000 people in Addis Ababa on April 15, he acknowledged that the bureaucracy and justice system have not been serving the people and promised reform, including in the security services.
“We will work closely to make the security and intelligence institutions free from political partiality,” he told the crowd. “They would [have to] act in accordance with the law and be accountable to the law upon transgressing the law.”
In contrast to his predecessor, Abiy has strong popular support which could give him leverage against elements of the establishment that might oppose reforms.
A reorganization of the security services, which critics maintain are dominated by the Tigrayans, who formed the backbone of the military after they overthrew the communist regime in 1991, has yet to take place, however. They were left untouched in a recent cabinet reshuffle.
The international reaction to Abiy’s first few weeks has been remarkably positive. A statement from the U.S. Embassy struck a note of hope as the State Department announced its 2017 human rights report, which describes the occurrence in Ethiopia of “arbitrary deprivation of life, disappearances, torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment by security forces; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrest and detention by security forces.”
“2018 has seen positive steps as well, including the release of thousands of prisoners. We are also encouraged by strong and clear statements by Prime Minister Abiy regarding the need for reforms,” the statement said.
Zeid Raad al-Hussein, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, who has clashed in the past with the government, was invited back to the country and allowed to visit areas and talk with people he had been previously prevented from seeing.
“I was impressed by his commitment to openness and impressed by his apology for the irrevocable damage suffered by so many people during the repression of the recent protests,” Hussein told students at Addis Ababa University on April 25, referring to the new prime minister.
In fact, some are saying Abiy may have saved the country — not to mention the reputation of the ruling party.
In an editorial last year, the English language weekly Addis Standard issued a stark warning about the future of Ethiopia, saying that government infighting, ethnic tensions and popular anger had pushed the country toward collapse.
Editor Tsedale Lemma, who now lives in Germany, said the peaceful transition of power to Abiy may have halted that slide.
“They recognized that unless they do something, they were going down, and we came that close,” she said, lauding the outreach to the opposition and the release of prisoners. “What they are doing has given breathing space.”
Like the recently released detainees, she said she was cautiously optimistic but worried that not enough new faces have come into the government with the cabinet reshuffle. She noted also that the security forces remain untouched and that the state of emergency remains in place.
“It was a good beginning,” she said, “but . . . he could have done more.”