Susan Rice’s eulogy to Meles enrages many Ethiopians

6 Sep

By Keffyalew Gebremedhin

Bulcha Demeksa, a senior Ethiopian politician, who gracefully retired from Ethiopian politics said this week in a radio interview he strongly resented the eulogy by Ambassador Susan Rice to Meles Zenawi. He accused her of embalming official United States message to the people of Ethiopia with the personal.

Bulcha repeatedly emphasized Meles was a dictator, whose repressive policies have been responsible for so many Ethiopian deaths and sufferings. He is convinced Meles did not deserve such eulogy from the United States. He then wondered whether the historian at the State Department would find it easy to place such a statement in the records of the department for benefit of future generations.

US Ambassador Susan Rice delivering eulogy to Meles Zenawi

Ephrem Madebo, an Ethiopian American systems engineer, Thursday posted a scathing article Susan Rice, a US diplomat who loves dictators, the title of which adequately conveys his intended message.

In that article, Ephrem asked how the ambassador would have felt, “if I make a public statement saying that the authors of “Jim Crow” leave behind an indelible legacy of major contributions to America’s south, especially, to American blacks? We know southern elites benefited from Jim Crow laws in the same fashion Meles Zenawi’s ethnic comrades benefited from his exclusive political and exploitative economic policies.”

He also took issues with the ambassador’s characterization of Meles Zenawi as “tough, unsentimental and sometimes unyielding. And, of course, he had little patience for fools, or “idiots,” as he liked to call them.”

To this, Ephrem Madebo retorted:

    Madam Ambassador, please allow me to ask you one simple question . . . does PM Zenawi’s set of fools and idiots include you? I’m asking you this because here is what PM Zenawi said about the Voice of America: “We have been convinced for many years that in many respects, the VOA Amharic Service has copied the worst practices of radio stations such as Radio Mille Collines of Rwanda in its wanton disregard of minimum ethics of journalism and engaging in destabilizing propaganda” Look, Madam Ambassador, as long as the late Zenawi is concerned, everyone that opposes him is an idiot to him. The only reason he compared the VOA to Radio Mille Collines of Rwanda is that the VOA was exposing his dictatorial regime. The above quote was crafted and written by you, so who were you referring to when you said he had little patience for fools, or “idiots”? As long as I am concerned, you were referring to yourself because to Meles Zenawi, the VOA and the US Department of State [at least every year when it reports on the Human Rights issue of Ethiopia] are fools or idiots. Unless you tell me otherwise and apologize to the great people of Ethiopia for your uncivilized comments, I stand by what I said.

Ephrem observed that, if Ambassador Rice had thought of ingratiating Meles with the Ethiopian people referring to him as “uncommonly wise – able to see the big picture and the long game”, she had wasted her time.” Amplifying that Ephrem writes:

    In his 21 years in power, he built an army where more than 90% of the commanders are form his ethnic group. He built a huge security apparatus where the key personnel at every level of the apparatus come from his ethnic base in Tigray. He built an economic empire that controls the commanding heights of the Ethiopian economy. In this economic empire, the emperor, the princes & princess, the lords and the vassals all cone from a region Meles calls “My home”. Politically, Meles’ party [TPLF] controls power at every level. For your information, Ethiopia has a population of close to 90 million people out of which only 6% are Tigreans who are the power base of Meles Zenawi. Madam Ambassador, this is your man with big picture and long game. What is big in Meles Zenawi, or you just don’t know what the word big means living in Big Apple. Look, Madam, Meles created a political system where his 6% minority group dominates 94% of the Ethiopian population. If this is what you call big, your vocabulary lacks the antonym of big.

Another long time US resident Kirubeal Bekele darted a series of questions at Ambassador Rice, mostly highlighting the moral aspect of praising an outright dictator. This is contained in his open letter to Ambassador Susan Rice, where he writes:

    How dare you give this level of admiration to a tyrant who killed 200 protesters on broad day light in 2005 to steal an election? How can you shower your praise to a deadly tyrant who executed 400 Anuak people from Gambella committing a horrendous genocide that has been investigated and verified by Genocide Watch? How can you in your right mind admire a brutal dictator who massacred the people of Ogaden with unparalleled barbarism Ethiopia has never seen before? What is there for a brutal dictator to give credit for who imprisoned thousands of political prisoners and journalists who are languishing in his dungeons under inhuman conditions even as we speak? What does this say about you and your value for the human soul that God created? What make you think that the lives of thousands of Ethiopians stolen by your darling dictator have no value in your eyes? Or do you consider them chickens or wild beasts who deserve to be killed?

Many people, including a number of academicians, have commented on the impropriety of the content of the eulogy. they did not appreciate it is delivered “On behalf of President Obama, the United States government, and the American people”. There is no doubt that, Mrs. Rice’s eulogy, which lumps together the personal and the official, stands in sharp contrast with the recent statements across Africa by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on the changed United Sates policy regarding Sub-Saharan Africa.

The Associated Press dubbed the secretary’s seven country mission as “a grand tour of Africa” she undertook to sell the new strategy. It took her to Benin, Ghana Malawi, Nigeria, South Africa, South Sudan and Uganda, and was intended to convince Africans the US Strategy Toward Sub-Saharan Africa, which the White House released on June 14, 2012, is a new mechanism that would strengthen with fairness and on the basis of friendship the times of America with Africa.

Mrs. Clinton commenced her trip with a lecture on August 1st at the Cheikh Anta Diop University in Dakar, Senegal, where she openly declared, “In the past, our policies did not always line up with our principles.” This United States awareness of its policy mistakes is very much welcome. Most importantly, Mrs. Clinton further clarification was the right approach, especially where she stated:

    But today, we are building relationships here in West Africa and across the continent that are not transactional or transitory. They are built to last. And they’re built on a foundation of shared democratic values and respect for the universal human rights of every man and woman. We want to add value to our partners, and we want to add value to people’s lives. So the United States will stand up for democracy and universal human rights, even when it might be easier or more profitable to look the other way, to keep the resources flowing. Not every partner makes that choice, but we do and we will.

In his preface to the strategy, President Barak Obama made reference to one of the four underpinnings of the new strategy underlining:

    Strong, accountable, and democratic institutions, sustained by a deep commitment to the rule of law, generate greater prosperity and stability, and meet with greater success in mitigating conflict and ensuring security. Sustainable, inclusive economic growth is a key ingredient to security, political stability, and development, and it underpins efforts to alleviate poverty, creating the resources that will bolster opportunity and allow individuals to reach their full potential.

This is where Africa expected help from the United States. Unfortunately, if things are to continue as business as usual, especially as it seemed to sound in the eulogy delivered by Ambassador Susan Rice, what entitles the United States to claim to be better for Africa than China, a country it constantly needles for its gross indifference to violations of human rights and repression against the democratic aspirations of the peoples of Africa?

In the light of Mrs. Susan Rice eulogy, which stands opposite to the the letter and spirt of the four pillars outlined in the strategy, it is in the interest of the people-to-people relations between Americans and Africans, that the United States work on the veracity of the claims of the US Strategy Toward Sub-Saharan Africa than the eulogy’s purport which gave its back to the plight of Ethiopian victims of dictatorship, aided by the United States in the past two decades, and previous to that by the Soviet Union. Ethiopians need respite and deserve true liberation.

At this point, regarding the eulogy, as the Editor of Awaramba Times has put it from personal experience, mainly of persecution from his exile in the US ( Susan Rice’s Meles and the Meles Zenawi we knew), Meles Zenawi remains a flawed human being in the memories of millions of Ethiopians, both as a person and dictator, as Ethiopians have known him.

This is being said, without denying that he had legitimate admirers and loyal supporters, at the forefront the members of his ethnic group, accompanied by those that made the best out of a nepotistic political climate. It is also being said, notwithstanding some of Meles’s excellent ideas about making Ethiopia stronger country with important achievements in the economic area that he wanted to exploit as springboard and proxy for the personal grandeur he had in mind all along.

Nonetheless, no one in his right mind can tell Ethiopians to keep on languishing under environment of repression for the sake of economic growth, for that matter, of late characterized by inflationary growth and one that has increasingly become narrow-based in terms of benefits. Already, this has resulted in the gains being plucked out by smaller group of individuals, for which the primary criteria are only political loyalty and belonging to the ‘right’ ethnic group. At one point in October 2005, Meles himself said he was not interested in professional excellence that is not supported by party loyalty.

It is such a cruel person who had designed for Ethiopia a persistent environment that fosters control of others, deception and political opportunism that has been eulogized with pretense or perhaps unwillingness to stand witness to the truth.

Those who are not familiar with the real Ethiopia, they should see that on one side in the past seven years especially it has become one vast ocean where ordinary citizens simply wiggle out of sheer desire for survival. On the other, there is hypocrisy and corruption of the big, even in post-Meles situation determined to ensure continuity of their power and the privilege of wallowing in riches and utmost comfort.

In turn, this has simply encouraged the small ones to look for short cuts. Looked together with the above, the overall situation has increasingly been working against the political economy of Ethiopia, to the extent of weakening future prospects of the country in fundamental ways.

I earnestly wish I am wrong.
 
*Updated.
 

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