Ethiopia: Human Rights Watch – Business as Usual

By IndepthAfrica
In Article
Nov 3rd, 2012

Human Rights Watch: Business as Usual
Amen Teferi
It is a bit of a surprise to find an article that give the personal and the official opinion in one goes. The article is from an expert with the Human Rights Watch (HRW) and condemns the Ethiopian government on many of issues. As the World Bank approved and signed a grant and loans, Mr. Ben optioned for an article to express his personal opinion on the decision of WB and related matters.
My article is a response to the piece of writing by Mr. Ben Rawlence titled as “Ethiopia: Business as usual” (herein after I would refer the writer as Mr. Ben, following the Ethiopian manner of addressing a person). However, a cautionary note is necessary to guard my reader against any slip-up of ‘miss taking’ my ‘poor’ Mr. Ben of the Human Rights Watch for the renowned fictitious character of British author David McKee.
Analogizing Mr. Ben
As Ben is a character authored by David McKee, Mr. Ben is a living character authored by Human Rights Watch; who in turn authored an article on October 3, 2012. McKee’s Ben[n] appears in several children’s books, and in an animated television series of the same name transmitted by the BBC in 1971 and 1972. Ben[n] is an adventurous character; and his counterpart at HRW has a similar trait.
Let me give you an epigrammatic note here.
Mr. Ben[n], a man wearing a black suit and bowler hat, leaves his house at 52 Festive Road and visits a fancy-dress costume shop where he is invited by the mustachioed, fez-wearing shopkeeper to try on a particular outfit. Our Mr. Ben, a man wearing a professional mantle and Uncle Sam’s hat, leaves his office at the old retired street and visits the cyber world uninvited just to try on a particular polemics.
McKee’s Ben usually went to a costume shop and then leaves the shop through a magic door at the back of the changing room and enters a world appropriate to his costume, where he has an adventure (which usually contains a moral) before the shopkeeper reappears to lead him back to the changing room. Then story ends and Mr. Ben[n] return to his normal life, but is left with a small souvenir of his magical adventure.
Unlike Mr. Ben (the character proper) our Ben[n] of the HRW has a magic door at the back of his mind to sneak in to an imaginary world (which usually content itself with the amoral) where he could plumb in to the ocean of free whims. Then he gets in to a changing room to shroud himself with a fancy fabricated dress, an appropriate costume for his imaginative world. Unlike his counterpart, Mr. Ben[n] of the HRW has no shopkeeper who would come to the scene and lead him back to the real world (to the changing room in the fictitious Benn’s case). As his organization has failed him, I tried to assume the shopkeeper’s role but in vain. While David Mckee’s story has an end with a moral to import, the series story authored by Mr. Ben[n] and his company the HRW knows no end.
Mr. Ben[n], an expert with a human rights outfit; he seems to me to be a character in children story. Of course, there are conspicuous differences between Mr. Ben[n] of the HRW and Mr. Benn of David McKee. However, I would like to take issue with their similarities as they have much commonality between them, which they express in their own way. Their similarity lies in the fact that both of them have sarcastic way of rendering life. The scenes before and after their adventures usually have such games the children are playing in the street as they passes. Now, let us look to Mr. Ben of the HRW as he is rendering life in Ethiopia.
The not-cogent article written by Mr. Ben[n] of the HRW expressed the same hackneyed opinion that Ethiopian readers are familiar with for last two decades, that is, since EPRDF took power. The only new thing one could get from reading “Ethiopia: Business as usual” is the date on which this botched article is published (“republished”). The mere truth one could find in this article is the date, October 3, 2012; the article appeared on the cyber world. His article simply is
the latest version of the old HRW condemnation, which it often leveled against the Ethiopian government. The Ethiopian readers have no option but ignore it once again. As for me, I do not want to ignore but dance with a little bit.
And Mr. Ben’s article is embedded with insidious motives, which his organization always harbors against. A base less criticism aimed to discredit and discourage the success registered by Ethiopian government. Hence, he remarked, “despite Meles’s passing Ethiopia is continuing to conduct repressive policies, and international donors are continuing to ignore them.” He censures donors for not taking human right seriously in their decision to pour money in to the coffer of the Ethiopian government.
Mr. Ben tried to dance different with the same old song. But the flawed lyric or statement of Ben[n] must be scrutinized here, to see the wrongs of his statement in the right light and to do justice to facts. Though organs HRW presumed as its subscribers throw the reports it published; it nonetheless continued to produce negative representation of the Ethiopian government. It always publishes demonizing reports on Ethiopia. And the international donors, more often than not, continue to ignore and reject.
Strictly speaking, one can say Mr. Ben’s article seems to have an apologetic tone in explaining the reaction of donors to the non-stop vilifying reports his organization has been publishing and republishing on Ethiopia. Mr. Ben[n] admittedly and self-consciously told us the futile attempts of HRW to sever and block development aids to Ethiopia has never bear fruit.
But why? We will see.
According to Ben, issues that have invited “much twittering (and tweeting) among Ethiopia’s foreign donors” are ‘stability’ and ‘transition’. However, he declared that fuss about ‘stability’ and ‘transition’ would be nonsense so long as donors continue to give “little recognition to the role that human rights play in underpinning stability.” But, he acknowledged that the “fears [donors have] about the country’s stability and ‘transition’ are warranted.”
Ben[n] and his colleagues must have expected the demise of Meles would bring the end of Ethiopia. They might be stunned seeing Ethiopia made the transition and continue as a
stabilized state in the Horn, as it was before Meles. They might also have anticipated that winds of change will come after the passing of Melse. Nonetheless, the new primer Hailemariam, in his acceptance speech, pledge to continue Meles’s policies. This has nauseated Mr. Ben.
Hence, he wrote, “on September 21, Meles’ former deputy and foreign minister, Hailemariam Desalegn, was sworn in as his successor as both prime minister and ruling party chief. In his inauguration speech, Hailemariam pledged to continue Meles’ policies. These, it should be remembered, included not only far-reaching plans for economic development, but crushing political opposition, the evisceration of independent media and civil society, and the use of arbitrary detention, torture, and other repressive measures to suppress dissent.”
It is conspicuous that Mr. Ben had been yearning for a kind of “regime change” after Meles. He was also sure that winds of change would come in as a windfall. And he could not wait to see that happening. To his dismay, Hailemariam pledged to keep Meles’s legacy. This has frustrated Mr. Ben’s unrealistic expectation.
Mr. Ben and his organization assessed Meles’s administration as “a brutal dictatorship.” Therefore, they have been trying to wind up, tease and lead donors to believe the fabricated stories they are publishing and republishing. But their “consumers” turned all reports down uniformly. This reaction of donors has disconcerted HRW. Hence, Mr. Ben came with a long face. Nursing his grudges began to chide donors saying, “When Human Rights Watch presented its findings of the widespread manipulation of development aid, donors claimed they had no evidence to support our allegations, even though they hadn’t really investigated.”
According to Ben, had they complied to investigate the HRW allegations things would be the same. Because as he stated, “had they tried, officially, they would have been escorted by Ethiopian government officials who would have tracked down their sources, forcing them to recant or threatening their families.”
Mr. Ben never gives in rather go around with knives in his two hands. His article has a likeness to the last word of a dying man. Mr. Ben lying on his “death bed” remarked, “Working on Ethiopia over the last four years, I have become familiar with the confused reactions of
diplomats and aid officials as they struggle to reconcile the official narrative about Ethiopia with their experience on the ground. As Human Rights Watch has presented report after report of compelling evidence of human rights abuses, some of them connected to foreign aid programs, donors have agreed with us in private, promised to investigate, publicly dismissed our findings, renege on their promise to investigate, and then denied the problem exists. They cannot seem to decide whether Ethiopia is a development miracle or a brutal dictatorship. As one shrewd junior official put it to me, “Meles Zenawi messes with your head.”
I would say the “shrewd junior official” that Mr. Ben referred above is non-existent. The trick he employed in expressing his own opinion, as someone’s other than him. If this is how Mr. Ben scribbles his reports, I bet his consumers will never take him seriously. As we can see here, his is dancing with his old songs impersonating an anonymous “shrewd junior official.” Mr. Ben and his organization HRW should option to a new way doing things other than scribbling an un-attributable yarns. They must take a moment and see themselves with eyes open.
Mr. Ben must be wise at least after the event. Unfortunately, he does not seem to be capable of understanding his problems even after he had its bad effect. I think, it is not a difficult thing to anticipate the reception of a report scribbled with anonymous witnesses. It would be nothing, but abject rejection. Reports published by Mr. Ben and his organization will cherish not hearts and minds but the trash-dustbin of their would-be consumers.
Mr. Ben complained donors for “having agreed with in private, promised to investigate, publicly dismissed findings, renege on their promise to investigate, and then denied the problem exists.”
I found this comment as insult to intelligence. Here is Mr. Ben’s mediocrity. The point is, they fact-checked and make an informed judgment. Hence, they throw the report (dirt) in to the dustbin. And now, if Mr. Ben does not change the way “he walk his walk”, I bet the next time they will chase him out of their office; and embarrassing incidents would come one after another.
“Ouch!” advertisement
His argument takes a systematic turn away at every stage from the logical tread of argument where the successor point contradicts its predecessor, which marred his opinion with conspicuous absence of coherence.
If the donors had in private agreed to investigate and acknowledged the perpetration HRW allegedly reported to them and remained in hood -It was OK. On the contrary, they came to the open, committed themselves, “publicly dismissed his findings, and then denied the problem exists.” Now, after all the parties declined all HRW claims, it would be a moral transgression, which resembles a shoplifting to accuse the Ethiopian government for “tracking down and forcing or threatening sources to recant.”
Ben Rawlence’s perseverance on his allegations does not adorn him with the monopoly of truth; it will rather be a more concrete evidence for his dishonesty and mischievous trait. This time the incessant demonization of the Human Right Watch, tend to be perceived by its consumers, as an “Ouch!” advertisement. Its report would simply tell us more about HRW disposition than the Ethiopian government, which it tries to vilify. This would harm the credibility of the institution and validity of its report. Though, donors do not take seriously the negative advertisements of HRW on Ethiopia, we get more of it than less. Now, we are becoming fatigued and we no longer can bear any of it any more. But it will do no harm but displease its consumers and forced them to press the mute button and go with their business.
Of course, the Ethiopian government cannot be held accountable for the hollow criticism of Mr. Ben[n] and his organization- HRW. The intriguing thing is, while Mr. Ben censure donors for failing to live up to their own “human right policies and commitments” he failed to live up to his organization’s polices. Mr. Ben commented, “Donors develop a blind spot to legitimate concerns that in other countries they routinely renounce.” The motive revealed in this statement counts for everything in the well-orchestrated vilification of the HRW on Ethiopia.
What HRW is unable to accept is that, the Ethiopian government would never accept being a “weak puppet” for any outside persons – a legal or natural. There was never a time when
Ethiopian government had accepted being a “weak puppet”. There was never a time when Ethiopians saw pleasure in a variant dancing of neo- colonialism, with the old songs of neo- liberalism.
Ethiopia is a country of dignity, a staunch defender of its freedom and a country that symbolizes the end of the contemptuous attitude of the European slave masters. Ethiopia remains to be an icon of independence and a fire that ignite the torch of freedom that will last burning forever. If the Ethiopian government, rather than being accountable to laws publicly promulgated, tends to be infirm and surrender itself to the dictates of the donors, rule of law will be fritter away.
Ethiopians were not, are not and will not be subservient to any foreign body -be it a HRW or other. If it fell to its knee for the donors pressures and interfere with the independent adjudication of the courts; then where is rule of law and accountability. However, HRW is requiring the government to do this.
Let me side track
I belive that culture and history are important factors in the democratization process of a given political community. However, I would put aside the cultural and historical thesis from my argument. This position would serve two essential purposes.
First, it will sidetrack an issue that would be controversial; and deny the opportunity for those who avidly wait for any chance to come to distract the focus of our discussion. Second, it will deter the excessive capitalization of cultural and historical factors in the assessment of our democratization effort. It is unacceptable to take cultural and historical issues as defensible argument to guard oneself from reasonable criticisms and from being accountable to lazy mistakes.
However, I cannot help but resort to the history of our country with the intention of indicating squarely the wrong idea lurked in Mr. Ben’s article, which read: “the donor did not dare to criticize what they routinely denounce in other country.” This remark necessarily invites a question of sovereignty. I belive that the sovereignty of every country should be respected
without the consideration of their being small or big in terms of the territorial expanse or wealth. Historical and cultural disposition would have a significant role in the outcome of any attempts in this regard.
In this regard, Ethiopia would definitely be the last option for such consideration. The proudly Ethiopian political party- EPRDF, exponentially expresses this historical legacy, avidly protecting its sovereignty. As early as 1994 a certain IMF official tried to dictate the course of action of the Ethiopian government. Then, the late PM Meles told him straight in the face, “I did not fight for solid seventeen years just to be instructed by any international bureaucrat.” This is a witness account of the renowned noble prizewinner economist, Joseph Stilgitz, as he relates in his book -“Globalization and its Discontent.”
Though they are vigilant to issues of sovereignty, the Ethiopian people have been economically poor that would invite such excesses by the international bureaucrats, which would tend to compromise their pride and dignity.
We have been in abject poverty. Now, we start to see the light at the end of the tunnel. We are yet out of the dark tunnel; slowly but surely we will be in the open light. Even now, the skillfully perpetuated and manipulated image of Ethiopia by the ablest media professional of the West is beginning to fade by the fastest economic growth we manage to register in the last eight consecutive years. Today we have the largest economy in the Eastern Africa region with a promising prospect ahead.
Tales of three “cities”
Sure, that is what the Ethiopia government expressly declared in all its policy documents. Human rights and democracy are prominent and a priority agenda for Ethiopia as they are an outstanding issues for our development partners. In this respect, both the Ethiopian government as well as development partners seems to have the same analysis and understanding on how lasting peace and stability could be ensured.
In the last two decades, we have meticulously learned two things: the vulnerability of our democratization process and the way to become free of it. By contrast, Westerners, with their long cherished culture of democracy and open discussion, strong democratic institutions would be less inclined to appreciate our problem. Instead, they took every failure from the standards of democratic governance, as a lack of political willingness in building vibrant democracy and in respecting human rights. Therefore, we sometime tend to view the demonization of advocacy groups like HRW as a conspiracy to subvert our effort to consolidate our democratic system.
But what does Mr. Ben mean when he say “the narrowing of the political space?” Is he talking about the political space that allows him to interfere in the internal political affairs of our country? In that case, I do not mind. And my answer would be ‘so be it!’
On the other hand, if he means a space citizens of this country could participate (directly or indirectly) to air their opinion on matters of their concern and make decisions on public agendas of their interest? In that case, I mind.
Nevertheless, difference in interpretation may involve here. There are cases when we see discrepancy what the Ethiopian government saw as an instance of strengthening the system; the other would take it as an example of weakening. What the Ethiopian government perceived as broadening of the political space; the NGOs (both local and international) and development partners perceived as tightening political space. What the Ethiopian government perceived as a bill that foster freedom of speech; some NGOs (both local and international) and development partners perceived it as a draconian law that fetter the exercise of the right. The list is numerous. In short, we can say that there are three sides to every story- HRW yarns –His – Theirs – Ours (the truth).
Every story in Ethiopia has three versions coming from three “cities” -from the city of HRW, development partners, and the Ethiopia government. At times, we may have a convergence and often times a divergence on the versions of stories coming from the three cities. But we have a single issue that commands consensus of all parties -simply taking it at face value, this is, the relationship of democracy and stability.
The point that would set Mr. Ben and the Ethiopian government apart as heaven from the earth is the issue of sovereignty and accountability. We have divergent views with Mr. Ben on many issues. Nevertheless, as exception to the rule, we have a concurring opinion with Mr. Ben[n]. And that is the “recognition of the role that human rights play in underpinning stability.” Granted, rapid economic progress is impossible without putting in place a system that respect democratic and human rights of citizens.
We deeply understand that this economic progress was made possible by the conducive political environment we put in place. The political environment would continue conducive so long as the democratic and constitutional system of governance stayed intact and further consolidated as being dynamic all the time. We are committed to create a fettered democratic system with an ever-driving motto that can be rephrased as “when we begin to be loose in our commitment to democracy and human rights the Armageddon scene will creepily ensue.” This is a wake-up call posted in wall of the office and the minds of our leaders. The Ethiopian government as it clearly expressed in its policy document, has pragmatically analyzed the general environment in which it operate.
Distancing itself from being inflated with hollow patriotic feeling or chauvinistic ideas, it realized the poor position the country has as it stands today. Apart from being complacent by reiterating the grandeur of its history, it brings to focus that this generation has the lowliest place in the face the global community. The coffer of the government is empty and it cannot go any far without the security aid and assistance from the wealthy nations. This is an underlined assessment of the government. However, without a successful mobilization of our domestic resource to effect progress in all sectors we would not be able to secure aid and assistance. If we simply wish development without doing our “home work”, it will always remain a mirage.
The most important sphere of performance must be the domestic, which would eventually attract the foreign intervention we wanted to have. However, bottom-line is fostering a “with our without them” kind of spirit. Hence, EPRDF does not consider democracy and human rights as cosmetics that it applies with conceit to attract foreigners. This is a principle the life giving blood that circulates in the political veins of EPRDF.
But stability and prosperity cannot be founded on repression, forced displacement, interference in the courts and closing down the opposition, media and civil society. Donors forget that, at least according to their own policies and commitments, economic development and human rights go hand in hand. “What donors tend to forget”, argued Ben is that, “they have little recognition of the role human rights play in underpinning stability.” It may be so.
But the Ethiopian government is clear in this regard. It has a more articulated concepts of the democratization process of our country. Any chance to peep into the policy documents of the FDRE would glaringly indicate what valuation has the Ethiopian government in this regard. The documents capitalizes that democracy should be held as a centerpiece of every effort the government made in realizing its objectives in all sectors.
But in Ethiopia
Mr. Ben[n] want to have a condition in Ethiopia where a foreign body could get a chance to meddle itself in the internal affairs of Ethiopia. But the Ethiopian government denied such a chance to anybody who wish to interfere in the internal political activities and be allowed to manipulate and maneuver the course of political events in Ethiopia as he please. Like Mr. Ben[n] the opposition political party leaders have similar miss- calculations in this regard. Opposition political party leaders count most on donors, Western embassies and international bureaucrats. Alas! That does not work with EPRDF. That is why both of them are against the CSO law. However, democratic government should never be accountable to any foreign organization but to its citizens.
Dear Mr. Ben, do not mix-up two things –money and democracy.
The money you may pour into the coffer of the Ethiopian government must not be used as an excuse to meddle in the internal politics. Donation does not give anybody the political right to meddle in the internal affairs of our country. EPRDF never allow this. Nevertheless, do not
mistake this position of EPRDF as exception to the rule. It is rather a core value embedded in the socio-cultural and historical tradition of the Ethiopian people.
However much I tried, I could hardly see a well-intentioned move in the effort made by the advocacy groups of the West. In any case, I would be morally obliged to give them the benefit of the doubt to those activists and advocacy groups and presume that they have a well-intentioned course of action marred with unintended caprice.
Looking to their past records with this orientation, I found myself faced with all sorts of enigmatic problems wherever I turn my eyes on. This is because; they have contradictory premises of action and aims, on the one hand; and a wrong means of attaining their aims on the other.
The so-called advocacy groups and development partners have reiterated why they are interested in doing what they are doing. The alleged objective of these advocacy groups in monitoring and investigation the human right situation in other countries is simply an altruistic fraternal solidarity. They wanted to see the rights of their fellow human being respected.
They may also argue that human right issues knows no boundary as fraternity among the people of the world requires them to sympathize and show solidarity to their fellow human being. Hence, they hold a self-imposed mission of seeing a world free of human right abuses. These really justify their “honored” interventions.
With this rightly justified mission, they are expected to do what they are doing in Ethiopia and continue to do so. I have no contention what so ever in this regard; but respect to the noble mission they have set for themselves. However, I would never endorse the means they employ to accomplish these noble ends. Hence, I have contentions.
In many instances they came to the open with a strongly politicized position that would compromise their vowed neutrality that would endowed them with a morally justified and magnanimous bearing over their contenders. They should employ a means by which they could solidify their credibility and give them an upright disposition in the eye of the public. Objectivity is their priceless asset. Falling into a political pit would really tarnish their dignity and their
public image. This would in turn affect their cause badly. As Fredrick Nitech said, “defending a cause badly is defeating a cause.”
Mr. Ben Rawlence’s article could be tangible exhibit of the entire generic problem the advocacy and activists groups have very often indulge themselves in. The tone of his article reminds me of the old attitude of the West as a slave or colonial master.
As for the development partner of ours, they are also in deep confusion. The first point that I would like to note here is their confusion in their role in the Third World democratization process. I remember a discussion, held five years or so ago in America. That was discussion prepared by CSIS African division. On that discussion, all but a representative from the Ethiopian government was invited. This I think is the default setting of panels organizes by international advocacy groups.
One Human Right Watch expert (a persona-non-grata) and Yesuf Mulugeta of EHRCO have attended the forum as panelist. The Ethiopian government was not invited. It was an arrangement that justify its means by the end it set. I admit, that was the perfect setting to barrage the government they hate (for ideological reasons) to the morrow of their bones. I do not want to go in to the details and complex sprit of the discussion that was cunningly staged to accuse the government listed in their black list.
The often-heard word in that panel was “leverage.” Many of the panelists recognized the fact that “the west has no leverage on the EPRDF government.” That was the fact that disposes some Americans (who seem to have attended the panel with some overt political agenda) an easy. No “leverage” with regard to the Ethiopian government who never yields to the dictates of the so-called super-powers gets on their nerve. Participants who were so much disappointed by the conclusion of the 2005 election, had criticized the government for laying heavy hand on the protestors; and the opposition parties leaders for blowing their success to the wind.
The most pressing issue for those who were nursing their grudge with the hollow rhetoric was “how a transition of power could be effect.” The other important point of concern was the alleged “tightening of political space” following the 2005 election. In this regard the press law,
the law that govern charity organization and societies and the anti- terrorist law were raised on the floor. These laws were deemed as frustrating setbacks in the democratization process that begin after the downfall of the Derg regime. One may come up with a number of arguments for or against these laws. However, no one would reasonably argue that democracy could be exported or imported to any country.
There was this naïve notion on the part of the opposition leaders to “outsource” the democratization effort to international NGOs and embassy or state department personnel. One participant resiliently commented against the absurd position held by some advocacy groups and activists who presumed progress in the democratization can be effected by an arm-twisting pressure, vilification and intimidations.
This “false hope” must be abandoned in order to see a vibrant democratic progress in Ethiopia. The Ethiopian government has been repeatedly reminding the opposition party leaders that “no embassy personnel or foreigner would be a rescuer in matters that involve rule of law. A crystal-clear position of the government is that “the granter of a free political participation is not the foreigners but the constitution. It is the only insurer of our freedom. We must respect and protect this supreme law of the land as an apple of your eyes. Being oblivious of this fact would disturb the rule of the game.”
However, the opposition party leaders and some of their members tend to relay on international NGOs and embassy officials of Western countries. A marriage between the wrongly channeled attitudes of both the local politicians and foreign elements has created a bad imprint on the overall political development of the country.
That was an important lesson we have drawn from the electoral process of the 2005 where we saw the local and international NGOs (including some religious institutions and EU election observers) attempted to dominate the political activities in Ethiopia.
The EPRDF led government, in as much as it labored to make a clear demarcation to its state and party functions; it requires international NGOs to distance themselves from an apparent political involvement that would be a contravention to their stated objectives. The CSO law
enacted (as many would admit), has role to rectify bad tendencies of the local political party leaders and foreigners as well. It has created a legal framework that would allow a home grown and organic civic society activism.
Like the effort going on to substitute imported industrial goods for the last decade with the aim of fostering an indigenous economic development, we must substitute the “import of political agendas” by international NGOs and others.
Party leaders who entrained a false hope and expect a miracle from the US State Department should learn the fact that the people of Ethiopia is the sovereign entity to entrust government power. True power lies in the hands of their constituency not in hands of officials in the West.
World has changed
What Mr. Ben did not realized is that the world that we used to live for most of the last 20th century has changed in to tin air. And now we have a totally different configuration that would make the old “sticks and trick” obsolete. He evidenced by the fact that Western donors have ignored his report and continue their economic assistance to Ethiopia.
Many experts in the advocacy and activist group have still entertained the old fables. Some western governments are not in fact insulated from such fancy thinking and could not free themselves from the notion of the colonial legacy. Hence, sometimes nauseated by the ever-whirling puzzles, they tend to act as salve master in some instances.
As they are cycling along a circulator path driven by an enigmatic issues that end up simply proving they are shackled by nostalgic notion of colonial master. To put it another way, they are not riding the cycle; rather they are being rode by the cycle. This is the un-riddled enigmatic problem of like of the HRW.
Being under the influence of various “pull and push” factors- so to say- your will ever remain in confusion. They have those self-deluding notions of a “long and short term strategic interest” in engaging the Ethiopian government. While they stuck themselves in an implicit (and at times explicit) agenda of “regime changing” they raise a concern over a human right, a democracy
and a security issues which are all the more confused by the so called “crisis preventive diplomacy.” The ends the pretentious position of not meddling in the internal political affairs of a sovereign state. The stubborn human right organizations are also victims of such mutually exclusive notions. Torn between such mutually exclusive potions, some western governments and development partners denounce the CSO and anti-terrorism laws. The West argues that civil organizations must be free of any outside interference. And donors advise us that civil organizations should be left to follow their own natural tinkling. On the contrary, they denounce the CSO law, because it closes the door a stranger may sneak in. “As there is a dearth of local funding, the CSOs need our support,” they argue.
Don’t we have the same problem in the economic sector? Sure, we have a dearth of capital in the economic sector. Why the Western governments take the same step to curb the lack of capital we are facing in the economic sector?
Any ways, they are entitled to their opinion. They are the uncontested master of their pocket. They have also an inalienable right to decided as to where they should spend their money as they see it fit. Equally, they should respect the citizen’s right to be a sovereign master of their internal civic and political affairs. This never downplay the fraternal solidarity of citizens of this globalized world and a co-operation that may be estabilished to promoter the common interests thereof; with a due respect to the sovereignty of each other’s states.
The government in the west and the development partners of the African states should be humble enough in engaging states in the third world as equal partners; should reconcile themselves with their history as slave traders. The money they are spending and lending is money a collected from the taxpaying citizens of their respective nations. And this money should not be used to promote the interest of the multi-national corporations.
We know that there are shortcomings in matters of good governance as our partners would realize. However, we have the same realizations but a different the conclusions that would set us apart. Indentifying such shortcomings in the democratization process of our country would lead the HRW to be pessimist altogether. However, we look to our limitations with a “reality lens” and we would say, “We have started from a poor beginning and come a long way forward.
Some of the problems we encounter have their origin with our cultural inheritance, capacity, etc. Hence, making this and unmaking that would curtail our problem. By so doing we would be able to surpass the obstacles we are facing now.” This is how we assess our limitations, being brimmed with optimism.
As we realize our humble start, we would not lose heart by problems that might arise at every turn. And you are entitled to your opinion and say, “the Ethiopian government has done this and that. Hence, it is worthless and it does not worth the salt of democracy. Therefore, it must be punished.”
Here begins our problem. If you do not realize our humble beginning and the bottlenecks, then you will resort to demonization and hand twisting. This position relates to many misconceptions. For one thing, you bore a contemptuous disposition of being a master or a principal. However, you tend to evade, you fail to assume the morale disposition of a professional teacher who is ethically required to show his students the sources of his mistakes and misunderstandings without being coercive and intimidating.
You always count on your ability to force the student. The coercive power at your disposal to force the student to do the things you supposed him do. Moreover, you always begin from a wrong premise. That it is a deliberate, ill-motivated, selfishly driven action of the government that always frustrates the democratic process. You do not give the benefit of the doubt; rather you are apt to criticize for our failing. Hence you are not part of the solution but your are organic part of the problem that leave the government confused and frustrate and close all doors of constructive engagement. You are consolidating the spirit of enmity rather than friendship in this globalized world of ours.
You still stick to the old psyche of a slave master. You have a notion that you can get what you wanted through a coercive means. This is also a characteristic traits our opposition party leaders. Amidst the never-ending relegation of the HRW, Ethiopia registered a remarkable progress on many countless spheres. Mr. Ben ridicules Ethiopia’s vision to join the ranks of middle-income countries by 2020. His rascal attitude can be seen clearly in his statement that read: “Ethiopia’s vision that it will join the ranks of middle-income countries by 2020 is
repeated throughout the World Bank’s new country strategy but there is little mention of the methods with which this growth is being achieved. I never doubted Meles’s intentions or his zeal. But the gap between his vision and the reality was startling, and brutal.”
Mr. Ben, but have you seen the startling gap between your report and the reality of the donors? It is just brutal. You are my witness. Your words:
“[Meles] pursued an approach to development that would not fly in most of the countries that gave him money. Indeed, the development economists from Western aid agencies I spoke to were a little envious of his power to commission dams and lease thousands of hectares of indigenous land without a nod to anyone. But the approach is founded on the ruling party wielding complete and unchallenged power with no room for any dissenting voices, and it relies on fear.”
Common mistake
It is also true that a country that came out of a dictatorial regime, of necessity, should make painful adjustments in many respects. “Ancient philosophies have to be scrapped, old social institutions have to disintegrate, bonds of caste, and creed and race have to burst.” In this process, large numbers of persons who cannot keep up with the changes and progress have to have their expectations of a comfortable life frustrated; as very few communities are willing to pay the full price of democratization. Hence, the struggle of the progressives and reactionary forces ensue.
The leaders of the ruling party EPRDF are not only among the few who are willing to pay the full price of democratization but they are also the fore-bearer of the torch of freedom and democracy. However, our decades of energetic effort to promote “revolutionary democracy” have received little attention from the West, for it has been a bloodless process.
Today, few would hesitate to admit that the task of building democracy is more challenging than enthusiasts twenty years ago expected it to be. Well-intentioned efforts have not always produced the expected results. The democratization effort of our country has brought much
success, but it has also a much sobering experience. In the initial rush to democratize, little thought was given to the terrain on which democracy was to be planted or the time required for it to take root. The lessons of the recent and earlier history were often ignored.
In the 1990s leaders, many of whom succeeded communists, were eager to gain international acceptance as democrats. Some simply “changed clothes” and gave their parties new names; others thought more deeply about creating new, open societies. But most were so eager for international acceptance that they rushed to commit themselves to new constitutions, political parties, elections, and the other trappings of mature democratic systems, not realizing how complex these processes could be.
Too often, the foundations on which a dynamic democracy must be built, that is, an educated public, a rational economy, a dependable legal and judicial system, and a flow of pertinent information at all levels of society were taken for granted, until their absence forced the realization that democracy could not go far without them.
Ethiopia’s experience in establishing democracy in the 1990s is enlightening for both would-be democrats and democratizers. In some ways, its present leaders’ efforts to establish democracy have succeeded to a remarkable degree. The administrative structure of the country has been transformed, and a new form of government -ethnic federalism- has been adopted. The peasants who make up approximately 85 percent of the population have been freed to make their own decisions about which crops to plant and when and where to sell their produce. In fact, Ethiopia’s new leaders have been conducting a more dramatic experiment in governance. However, the process has received little attention because it has been comparatively peaceful. The dog barks, but the camel keeps on moving.

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