Washington Post‘s editorial exposes TPLF regime’s cruelty, as its board also questions donors’ integrity & double-standards in dealing with heavy-handed officials in Ethiopia

10 Feb

Posted by The Ethiopia Observatory (TEO)

    The editorial by The Washington Post on Ethiopia is not a collection of local voices of distress, nor that of local interested parties “trying to press the regime to change its bad ways.” Nor is it the voice of Ethiopia’s diaspora that has largely turned against the things that are happening in our unfortunate land.

    It rather is the informed view of and judgement by America’s most respected newspaper, The Washington Post, whose objective, we think, is influencing policy of the US Administration. In so doing, the paper underlines in the excerpts we picked from the article the ills the TPLF regime has imposed on Ethiopian society, thereby endangering the country’s future.

    That is why this blog hopes in earnest that the TWP editorial would help jigger the Obama Administration’s self-contented stance on Ethiopia, the origin of which historians also must seriously examine to understand why a superpower closes its eyes in this volatile part of the world, when the possible anchor with capacities for good and ill begins to give way.

The human and civil rights situation in Ethiopia has invariably been terribly bad; it never belongs to the 21st century. With the May 2015 election fast approaching, it has fast grown worse and grossly inhuman in many respects. Briefly put, Ethiopians are now being compelled to walk on all sorts of fires and in every direction – some of it medieval, terrible and heartrending.

The situation as it obtains now, gives the impression that the ruling party in Addis Abeba, sure of its instincts and capacity to disarm donors with all sorts of deceptions and catering to their temporal interests, it is determined to win and continue in power – irrespective of the price to the country’s image and the costs in human lives.

Basically, underlying this determination is its confidence in donors looking the other way and later turning to pat it on the shoulder, when its gross operation(s) are all over.

In view of this, the regime of late, must have instructed its members and supporters to follow example of the Taliban’s escapade in Pakistan, in which those wanting/trying to get their children vaccinated against polio had to pay with their lives or limbs.

We don’t think anyone wants that for Ethiopia, except the regime itself.

Were the past is to provide any lessons, recall that during the days of the Dergue, it was mainly political cadres and the so-called neighborhood kebele guards that brought about the horrendous ‘Red Terror’. In other words, it was not the Dergue’s military and the commandos that, unlike today, who committed those crimes. After all, since all the real war fronts were in all corners of the country, the military did not have physical presence in the capital city.

When those in the Dergue’s senior leadership competed with each other, using revolutionary slogans of death to this and death to that to demonstrate their revolutionary fervor and hence loyalty to the sole leader Mengistu, they encouraged the fires of human destruction to burn the youth they selected from every kebele. To signal his determination to those he considered his enemies both at home and abroad, Col. Mengistu also picked his moments to lead the same chant of deaths to this and to that.

Amongst the little educated political cadres and their subservients, this found following who were determined to translate into practice the death to X and death to Y.

In other words, some took this to heart the death chants as the collective message of the leadership to the public. That is why this resulted with many citizens’ needless death.

It was only when the former State Minister of Education Asrat Wolde, purported to be Mengistu’s uncle, became their target that fire began to be turned to those people.

Then and there, Mengistu ordered his uncle locatrd and rescued. At the same time, he made sure that the ring leader in the kebele by the name Girma Kebede, infamously known as the ‘Arat Kilo Butcher’, was shot at Shiro Meda by firing squad on a certain Saturday, news of which was immediately announced on the radio as deterrence.

This brought small relief, but not enough to calm the madness. Still, therefore, murderous kebele ‘defenders of the revolution’ still felt free to claim more lives; most of such notorious killers were the same group in different kebeles of the city, who were people with little schooling.

The Dergue reacted by picking them up from time to time and were made to pay with their own lives facing the firing squad with the ‘Feyel wetete’ sang on the radio. This continued until the killers stopped and Addis Abebans finally learned that kebele leaders had no more authority to shoot people in the streets in broad daylight or by night.

The sad thing is that, the tragedies of that period have not sunk into the TPLF leaders with its sufficient lessons.

For the last 24 years, they have shown that they were alright with any measure so long as it kept them safe in power. Hypocritically, however, they always condemned what they constantly pointed out were the Dergue’s crimes for political purposes, as they have kept at it; they still encourage their political cadres to commit exactly the same odious crimes – torturing citizens, killing people and imprisoning them for no crimes whatsoever.

It is these that are now making life difficult for Ethiopians in their own country. The TPLF people are free to detain mostly non-Tigrean citizens, without any charges or crimes for an indefinite period, as did the kebele guards during the Dergue era.

Today, mere suspicion of terrorism and claims of anti-regime behavior are good excuses for any action by the TPLF security and military to imprison, torture or eliminate anyone. They are free to secretly eliminate, what the United Nations Human Rights Commission describes as forced disappearances, whomever they choose and allege he/she was found dead, or killed himself/herself.

Much in the same manner as in the case of the ‘Abiyot Tebaqi’ of the Dergue era, the TPLF military and security personnel have little education. Keep in mind that the TPLF people were young when they joined their ‘liberation struggle’ in the 1970s; inevitably and sadly, what they have specialized is killing people, as their bosses in those days used to eliminate any woman that became pregnant for them, especially crimes attributed to Sebhat Nega, Seyoum Mesfin and Abay Tsehaye, according to a former TPLF finance official Gebremedhin Araya, a Tigrean himself. Nothing better exposes the inhumanity and cruelty of the TPLF people, even to the extent being as bloodthirsty as hounds.
 

TPLF is hooked on blaming others and the past, as if committing the same crime is right for it

The Washington Post‘s editorial of February 9, 2015 – Ethiopia’s stifled press – is right in dwelling on the challenges what has been left of Ethiopia’s media and the handful of serious journalists are now facing. At the same time, it has ignored the fact that no other aspect of Ethiopian lives have been spared from TPLF’s harsh mistreatments and abuses. This in spite of the regime’s monstrosity, which has been repeatedly demonstrated even in exploding bombs in Addis Abeba to get the opposition and more particularly the Oromos blamed, as the US embassy in Addis Abeba had established and a matter revealed by WikiLeaks, when it released official United States diplomatic communications dispatched from Addis Abeba.

In the several months before previous elections, Ethiopians had known the humiliations of denials of food to the needy or improved seeds to hard working farmers. This requires only a person not enthusiastically declaring his support to the regime; nor even being suspected of open support to the opposition parties, but any perceptible sympathy to anyone of them. This was Ethiopia’s reality then as it is now.

In those days, especially on the eve of the 2010 election it was the United Kingdom, through its Department for International Development (DfID) that managed to pour water on this as false; the UK finally made other donors to accept its version of the denial, using the forum of the Addis Abeba resident diplomats’ – the so-called Donors Assistance Group (DAG), which issued a statement to that effect.

Nonetheless, it has now increasingly become evident to many in the international community that the worst for Ethiopia is arriving in earnest. Already many citizens are experiencing unbelievably harrowing state-inspired sufferings. A part of this was made public this past Monday in the huge list of the SOSs received – ‘distress messages’ – from the rural population in the different parts of the country. These came through the different legal opposition parties in Addis Abeba and in the regions. The information was were made public Monday, February 9, 2015 by Medrek – the coalition of opposition parties.

Details of the harassments, abuses and lawlessness in many rural parts of the country include:

    *   health officials refusing to vaccinate children of opposition party members/supporters;

*   seizure of farmlands of farmers supporting/sympathizing with opposition parties;

*   Seizure of properties by local district and ruling party officials properties of farmers supporting opposition parties, some of them openly for personal uses of local leaders;

*   Creating obstacles to farmers wanting to register to vote, if they are suspected of opposition supporters.
 

Who is engineering these crimes against Ethiopian society?

These latest destructive fires are initiated now and stocked by none other than the orders of the unreformed and unreformable former and present cadre sitting in the office of the Ethiopian prime minister, whose name this blog has decided not to carry at all. Accordingly, for indication and reference purposes, we have adopted a variant of the nomenclature the Soviet Union had used for the first Secretary-General of the United Nations Trygve Lie, after they denied him of recognition and ‘severed’ communication with him.

On this one, we fully agree with The Washington Post, which also holds the view of him as a source of the problem, as follows:

“After the death of prime minister Meles Zenawi in 2012, successor Hailemariam Desalegn has tightened the regime’s stranglehold on the press. Even Ethiopia’s rival Eritrea looks better: It released several imprisoned journalists last month.”

Regarding the action by our blog, suffice to indicate that we adapted to him the above nomenclature, first used by Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Vishinsky (1949-1953), who had also served as the Soviet Union’s Permanent Delegate to the United Nations. He used to alternatively refer to the secretary-general as the man in the secretary-general’s office, or as “the person currently fulfilling the functions of Secretary-General” (Brian Urquhart’s Hammarskjold (1972).

This blog would refer to him as The Man in Ethiopia’s Prime Minister’s Office (MIEPMO), to underline our disappointment in him, our desdain for his incompetence and thus the rejection of his role in Ethiopia’s politics.

We chose to do this not because this blog loves to tease people. It is simply because we wanted to bring to the attrention of the world his cruelty and ouir realization in him of how much joy he derives in humiliating Ethiopians, including calling them names, as we first pointed out in December 2014 in the above-referred to article, i.e., .

It is no surprise that Ethiopians should flee their country in huge numbers since he came to office; of late, their number has significantly increased. This is happening to a country the TPLF leaders and the donor community constantly laud as the fastest growing and benefitting their companies. However, for its citizens Ethiopia has become prison and a torture chamber, a place where citizens live in fear, especially the youth most of whom now languish in prisons, or flee the country, in the process drowning in high seas, or suffering in the hands of human traffickers.
 

Temesgen Dessalegn’s case: Worst cruelty against a journalist prisoner and his family

On the question of cruelty of the regime, one only needs to listen to or read the message of journalist Temesgen Dessalegn’s mother W/o Fanaye Erdachew (link:http://www.zehabesha.com/listen-temesgen-desalegns-mother-touching-letter-must-listen/. She circulated this message to plead to be allowed to visit her son in prison.

Journalist Temesgen was thrown to prison, because of speaking truth to power. Since the days of Meles Zenawi, the TPLF has been exerting all sorts of pressures on him to leave the country. Finally, he made it public that he is a child of the land and would sit put. He said he would keep on writing, so long as he was breathing. The regime finally showed it could undercut him, by sending him in late 2014 to prison for three-and-half years.

Temesgen's Mother A little over a month ago, his younger brother who regularly visited him in prison was beaten by five prison guards. His fault was being Temesgen’s brother and for regularly bringing food to him – the man they loved to hate.

The brother had thus part of his body organ damaged and blood all over him. As severe warning, they told him not to step to that prison door again, which neither he, other smaller brothers nor the mother visit journalist Temesgen.

One should only ask what Temesgen’s crimes are.

Although prisoner, who has violated the censorship rules of the regime, he began exposing to the public TPLF’s human rights crimes against the people of Ethiopia and the corruption thereon. He has large following and people that still write about him. Whenever convenient, he also sneaks out articles to be published abroad and circulated to Ethiopians.

From prison, he started writing about unfairly imprisoned prisoners interviewing them; their number is shocking as the tortures they had been subjected to, including some of them being in death row for several years for crimes they have not committed. Therefore, the only way the prison administration could stop by denying him the right to visit by family, friends and colleagues. This they did in violation of Ethiopia’s international obligation, signed and acceded in international treaties on the protection of the rights of prisoners and the prohibition of tortures.

That is why his aging mother is now appealing to the so-called ruling party-established Human Rights Council, operated by ruling party commissioner to help her visit her son. She portrays her son, unlike his torturers, as a ‘harmless’ person, hardworking and ‘a good Ethiopian’ who ‘cares for people.’

Her message has been cc:ed to MIEPMO, parliament, parliament’ justice committee, the US and UK embassies – the latter two being the country’s overlords that ensure this terrorist regime stays in power.

She had only one request: her son not to be cut out from human beings as such and from her too. She indicated that, at her age and as a mother not to be left grieving in her last days because of the denial of her visiting rights, thereby building wall of separation between her son and herself.
 

Lust for power of the few: Ethiopia is being pushed onto an extremely dangerous path

In perceiving that Ethiopians are intensifying on a gradual basis their ungovernability, the signal coming from the ruling party is a vow to turn Ethiopia into an arena of human sufferings. This has focussed now on coordinated efforts to badly divide the population of a multi-ethnic state on every issue, thereby creating hatred, resentments and eventually conflicts. Chief among its strategies are:

    (a) Praising rural farmers as the country’s base of development, while presenting urban dwellers as parasites that do not want the nation’s growth and development:

    (b) Urban dwellers are portrayed as supporters of the diaspora elites who are agents of Ethiopia’s enemies;

    (c) Urban dwellers are put forth as pro-Eritrea and pro-Islamic extremists, whose goal is Ethiopia’s destruction;

    (d) Majority of urban dwellers are described as Amharas, who want to deny non-Amhara rural folks their ‘liberation’ the TPLF has brought them through its ethnic federalism;

    (e) Urban dwellers are described as Oromos, who want to break away and cause the country’s disintegration or cause civil war.

    (f) Oromos are portrayed as Moslems and pro-Somalia’s Al-Shabab and their aim cast as secretly working to establish Oromo and Muslim dominance over the entire country;

    (g) Urban dwellers are described as shrewd, complicated and collection of individuals that harbor varied secret interests. To realize their objectives, enumerated above, it is said that they have allied with the different legal opposition parties.

Any open-minded person could see that the objective of the TPLF and its hired hands is to perpetuate the Front’s dominance until the Second Coming. Worried are TPLF elites even about Meles’s 50 years cut off for TPLF’s ‘dominant party rule’ over Ethiopia, they have started making noises.

They fear it is too short; in recent months, they have been scribbling shameless and anti-democratic and anti-human rights leaflets sourced in North America, especially with canada as its center. Their intention is to inject a notion of felt need to rally the troops in support of their uninterrupted ethnic dominance through the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) for an indefinite future.

Therefore, as if such irresponsible actions to date, which are aimed at fanning hatred and the brotherhood of Ethiopians cemented by centuries of history are not enough, there are strong and unhibited actions that aim to stoke the fires of hatred, based on ethnic differences and the issues enumerated above.

The country’s good fortune is the fact of Ethiopia being blessed with gentle people caring for each other, irrespective of religion or ethnic differences. The essence of this is best captured and beautifully rendered in Teddy Afro’s song Chemin de fer about the large space in his heart and home for marriage between a Christian and a Muslim, Ever since the release of this number, Ethiopians have been so much ecstatic about its history of love and tolerance. This number in particular has endeared Teddy Afro to the nation, unlike the divisive politics of the TPLF.

This was too much to MIEMPO, as the regime’s facade. In early December 2014, they block for a while the musician from playing abroad, dispossessing him of his passport at the airport in early December 2014, two days before his concert in Finland, followed by performances in other five or six countries in Europe and the Middle East.
 

Why this editorial now by The Washington Post

We are happy to confess at the outset that we do not have any idea by way of answer to the above question. However, we have a sense that the paper must have conducted significant brainstorming within its editorial team to become the first top newspaper in the United States to so associate its name with as many international human rights and non-governmental organizations, independent institutions and individuals that have had good sense of the evolving bad situation in Ethiopia.

After all, this is one responsible journalism that shows some conviction about the need to right the many wrongs within the international community, as one way of creating a better world. In its opening paragraph and in defense of the human rights of the Ethiopian people, the paper writes:

    “While enjoying its status as an international development darling, Ethiopia has been chipping away at its citizens’ freedom of expression. The country now holds the shameful distinction of having the second-most journalists in exile in the world, after Iran. That combination of Western subsidies and political persecution should not be sustainable.”

This is not an everyday accusation of those trying to press the regime to change its bad ways, so identified as Ethiopia’s legal domestic opposition. Nor is it the voice of its diaspora. Therefore, this editorial is the informed view and judgement by America’s most respected newspaper, aiming at influencing policy. In that regard, it underlines in a few following lines the ills the regime has imposed on the society. We hope in earnest this editorial would jigger the Obama Administration self-contented stance on Ethiopia, the origin of which historians must seriously examine to understand why a superpower closes its eyes in this volatile part of the world, when the possible anchor begins to give way. Here is what the post cited as an example of Ethiopia heading to the precipice:

    “Ethiopia has long been known for its censorship and repression of the media, but the situation has deteriorated in recent years. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, the country has since 2009 “banned or suspended at least one critical independent publication per year.””

In that connection in recognizing spookiness of the TPLF regime and its actions, it notes, “journalists and media outlets who dare publish critical articles routinely receive threatening phone calls, texts and e-mails from party officials and security personnel. Journalists’ movements are often restricted outside of the capital, Addis Ababa. Sources who talk to foreign journalists and human rights organizations can face threats and detainment.”

The paper has the facts on its side, as helplessly experienced by Ethiopians. The following are the few things it has highlighted in that context:

    The repression extends across the media ecosystem. State agents harass printers and disrupt distribution processes associated with critical publications. Journalists who flee into neighboring countries are tracked and threatened. The government blocks Web sites from the Ethiopian diaspora, and it has jammed signals of foreign broadcasters, including Voice of America.

Much of the persecution has come under the guise of counterterrorism by a regime that has been a player in the fight against the al-Qaeda-allied al-Shabab. At least 38 journalists have been charged under a 2009 “anti-terrorism proclamation” and the criminal code. In 2012, prominent journalist and blogger Eskinder Nega was jailed for 18 years on charges of terrorism after criticizing the government’s repression.
 


 

Conclusion

In spite of these crimes of the TPLF regime against the Ethiopian people, we heard President Obama in September 2014 on the sides of the United Nations General Assembly session in New York showering praises about the leadership of MIEPMO, among others, for Ethiopia’s purchase of Boeing jets that have contributed to employment in the United States.

As we stated elsewhere, what the president did is what he must do for his nation – promote its interests, although mercantilistic. Moreover, when a superpower strictly confines its relations with others to this, as if it does not have responsibility for global peace and security and improvements of the human conditions, it comes across as very troubling, be it as policy measures or even as individual attitude.

We say this, because Ethiopia is a desperately poor nation and its situation is increasingly becoming tense, dicey and ready to go off anytime in the not too distant future.

The president could see for himself that Ethiopians under the TPLF are the most oppressed and their basic human rights and civil liberties denied. It is one of the leading countries contributing hugely to global refugees and migrant populations.

Sadly even there, the president’s reference to the May 2015 election was superficial, considering the TPLF regime setting example for the rest of Africa. While he said good election, with participation of civil society, was a necessity for Ethiopia’s growth, societal sense of fairness, it only came as an afterthought or an aside interjection. On this, no one can convince us that it was proper, be it either between individuals or in interstate relations, he being leader of a nation that values free and fair election as the basis for its own democratic governance.

Perhaps it is such perceptions that could not see the strong need today to help bring political sense in Ethiopia. It is financially cheaper for the international community today to do its best to induce political reform into the Ethiopian situation, i.e., before the country becomes another failed state, which it has already been sliding into for a while now.

The only way to help save Ethiopia from becoming like some of those African failed states, rife with tensions and out of hand conflicts, is today – not post facto, as often is the habit of the international community.

In that regard, we agree with The Washington Post, where it sees failure on the part of the international community, especially the United States in this regard.

We would also like to urge Bill Gates to open his eyes and see that, notwithstanding the amount of assistance he is doling in the health sector in the developing world, by his claim, on the eve of election the regime is showing him its true colors. This is to say it is denying little children vaccination, alleging the parents are supporters of opposition parties.

Did we hear Mr. Gates talking everywhere as a philanthropist how much he fights for the rights of children to live a healthy life? Should he keep his silence in the face of this, since this is contradictory to his conviction and mission as philanthropist.

Incidentally, we were also recently taken into lengthy discussion among ourselves wondering how much Mr. Gates’ claims are based on facts. Not long ago, he was putting the growth and development prospects of Ethiopia and Djibouti to be far better and higher than anywhere else in Africa. It took us by surprise how he arrived to that point, without giving due weight to the bad political situation, repression and the denial of human rights and freedoms that in many societies under the clutches of dictatorships have become impediments to successful national development.

In realizing that, we presume, here is how The Washington Post urged the Obama Administration to use its leverage on Ethiopia to stop the sufferings of Ethiopians under a power-crazed TPLF regime:

    “Despite these policies, Ethiopia has retained its status as a U.S. ally and recipient of large amounts of U.S. development assistance — including $373 million for health and humanitarian programs in 2014. By contrast, U.S. spending on democracy and human rights assistance in Ethiopia has fallen dramatically in the past several years, from $3.4 million in 2012 to $162,900 in 2014. The decline in assistance for human rights bows to a 2009 law that prohibits nongovernmental organizations receiving more than 10 percent of their funding from abroad from conducting human rights advocacy.

The State Department recently spoke out against the media crackdown. But more than words should be at stake. The Obama administration should link continued aid to the release of imprisoned journalists and bloggers, and it should enlist other Western aid donors to do the same. The West should not be subsidizing a regime that is one of the world’s leading persecutors of journalists.”
 
*Updated and slightly modified.
 

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