Turning our gun; on UN first or AU?
Last week I attended a sub-regional journalist’s conference organized by East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project (EHAHRDP) at the outskirts of Kampala. The very first day of the conference coincided with the deliberation of Ethiopia’s bid for a seat at the United Nations Human Rights Council. Since I shed my illusions on the so-called international community long ago, I was neither surprised nor outraged by the outcome that “elected” Ethiopia despite its notoriety on human rights. For a serious student of history, it’s often recallable that from the times of League of Nations up to the present UN those ideals such as human rights are mostly ideals. Anyone interested in them can crunch them without being overly consumed by them. Unfortunately, in some member states of the UN, even pontificating “freely” about these ideals within the confines of academic circle would result in dire consequences.
That’s what happened in 1993 whereby 42 accomplished Ethiopian professors were summarily dismissed by the régime. Considering how the late Zenawi charmed the global powers of the day that constitute the so called international community with his chameleon-like politics that even surpassed the chameleon itself, one doesn’t expect the international community to remember this incident of yesteryear. In fact, the deceased, emboldened by the knowledge that as long as he caters to the big time interest of the global powers, he realized that he can even play roughshod to the citizens of the first world. Thus, ranging from expelling an American academician named Abigail Salisbury from Mekelle University, he roughed up and expelled the NY Times Jeffrey Gettleman, the late Anthony Mitchell of AP etc. And, finally before he was summoned by his maker, managed to crown his “reputation” by locking up two Swedish journalists for over a year. However, like all astute gamblers in realpolitik, he had the sense to what extent risks should be taken. Thus, he never dared to kill the citizens of his patrons like he killed the denizens of his own domain by the dozen.
The late Ethiopian PM, Zenawi and his successor PM Desalegn
And for such “visionary leadership” the “international community” rewarded the deceased in many ways. Therefore, on top of eulogizing the despot to the extent of equating his abusive languages as eloquence wherein he used to denigrate his critics as “idiots” according to Madam Susan Rice, the “international community” continued to reward him posthumously through seats such as the UN Human Rights council. Of course, three points need to be clarified here. The first is Madam Rice ’s right to express her love for anyone unconditionally. Now that she is being contemplated to the chieftaincy in diplomacy, one can only hope that she will show the same “tact” to Robert Gabriel Mugabe of Zimbabwe when his long overdue departure time comes. After all, he too, in implacable English, expressed his impatience for “idiots” such as Johnny Carson.
The second point is the role that some might think the man who replaced Zenawi has played in winning a seat at the UNHRC.This “gentleman” named Hailemariam Desalegn is still clueless as to how he rose to the summit when his ambition was content to drudge in servility under his predecessor. To date, he is unable to form his own cabinet. Thus, his name continued to appear as the last known foreign minister of Ethiopia on search engines such as Wikipedia. Third, this writer is cognizant of the fact that Ethiopia got elected on the “principle” or practice of allocation according to regional groupings.Yet, regional groupings or not, a state whose name entered in the bad book of the global powers, notably the West, has no chance to be elevated in any of the UN agencies. Excepting Cuba in the past, perhaps attributable to the emerging power of South America, can you imagine Eritrea, Iran and Zimbabwe sitting in the UN Human Rights Council without the global power raising hell? Although, for a different reason and on a different area, even the former UN Chief Mr. Kofi Annan admitted that the prejudicial “outdated system” of UN “needs reform.”See the November New African Magazine wherein he discussed his own book “Interventions; A Life in War and Peace.”
Whatever, those individuals and groups tenacious of human rights have once again expressed their anger at the double standard. Mr. Hassan Shire, Executive Director of EHAHRDP who made a keynote address at the journalist’s conference I mentioned above, had this to say. “Year in and year out, the African Group’s rotation system has virtually guaranteed the election of countries like Ethiopia that are serious human rights violators. As evidenced by social media sites, the Ethiopian youth is also incensed by this turn of events. Since it’s our fate to be eternally victim of double standards, this time round, let’s turn our anger at the fact that Ethiopia is the seat of African Union. While it’s proclaimed in the principles and objectives of OAU now AU that member states should adhere to a “unity that transcends ethnic and national differences” as envisaged by the founding fathers, the current regime in Ethiopia went against the grain and opened a Pandora’s box by actively working for the secession of Eritrea and by imposing a “constitution” that encourages secessionism and balkanization. When Ethiopia rectifies this ugly record, the headquarters of AU can return to Addis like the Arab League did from Tunis to Cairo. We should also raise question at the wisdom of having Banjul, the capital of Gambia for a seat of African Commission on Human and People’s Rights despite its ugly record on human rights.
Mr. Hussain is an Ethiopian social and political commentator exiled in Uganda. He can be reached at E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org