Loading...

Saturday, April 23, 2016

U.S. Senators Speak Loud and Clear: Human Rights Violations in Ethiopia Must Stop!

By Prof. Al Mariam 
April 23, 2016

Last July, Barak Obama visited Ethiopia and declared the ruling Thugtatoship of the Tigrean People’s Liberation Front (T-TPLF) regime a “democratic government.”

The T-TPLF claimed with a straight face that it had won the 2015 “election” by 100 percent or all 547 seats in “parliament”.

The New York Times called it a “sham”.

Human Rights Watch called Obama’s statement “shocking”.

I called it a low down dirty shame.

On April 20, 2016, Senators Ben Cardin (D-Maryland), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Patty Murry (D-WA), Ed Markey (D-MA), Chris Coons (D-DE), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Al Franken (D-MN), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Marco Rubio (R-FL)  sponsored a Resolution condemning the crimes against humanity being committed by the  T-TPLF in Ethiopia today.

Well, they did not exactly use the phrase “crimes against humanity.” But that was exactly what they meant in their Resolution.

Senator Cardin commenting on his introduction of the  Supporting Respect for Human Rights and Encouraging Inclusive Governance in Ethiopia said:

I am shocked by the brutal actions of the Ethiopian security forces, and offer condolences to the families of those who have been killed.  The Ethiopian constitution affords its citizens the right to peaceful assembly and such actions by Ethiopian government forces are unacceptable. The government’s heavy-handed tactics against journalists and use of the 2009 Anti-Terrorism and Charities and Societies Proclamations to stifle free speech and legitimate political dissent demonstrate a troubling lack of respect for democratic freedoms and human rights. Given the challenges posed by the devastating drought and border insecurity, it is more important than ever that the government take actions to unify rather than alienate its people. It is critical that the government of Ethiopia respect fundamental human rights if it is to meet those challenges.

Senator Rubio echoed the same sentiment:

Peaceful protestors and activists have been arrested, tortured and killed in Ethiopia for simply exercising their basic rights. I condemn these abuses and the Ethiopian government’s stunning disregard for the fundamental rights of the Ethiopian people. I urge the Obama Administration to prioritize respect for human rights and political reforms in the U.S. relationship with Ethiopia.

Obama turned a deaf ear to Senator Rubio’s plea. To add insult to injury, Obama stood up in Addis Ababa and shamelessly declared the T-TPLF is a “democratic government”.

It is to be recalled that Senator Rubio wrote a letter to Obama a few days before Obama visited Ethiopia in July 2015 “highlighting” his “concerns regarding ongoing human rights abuses by the Ethiopian government against its own people.” Senator Rubio warned in his letter:

Although the United States and Ethiopia share an interest in fighting terrorism and securing stability through the region, it is essential that the U.S. does not turn a blind eye to Ethiopia’s human rights abuses. By shutting down avenues to express dissent through the political process, civil society, or media, Ethiopia’s government may fuel further instability in the country.

Brutality by government forces is a crime against humanity.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon said, “The acts of brutality [by the Syrian government] that are being reported may constitute crimes against humanity or war crimes. Such acts must be investigated and the perpetrators held to account.”

That is exactly what the U.S. Senators are saying and calling for in their Resolution.

The Senate Resolution states in plain words that crimes against humanity have been committed in Ethiopia under T-TPLF rule and there must be “a full, credible, and transparent investigation into the killings and instances of excessive use of force that took place as a result of protests in the Oromia region and hold security forces accountable for wrongdoing through public proceedings.”

But the Resolution goes well beyond a simple statement of disapproval and criticism.

I believe the Resolution represents the senators’ sentiments, views and positions on four distinct issues. The Resolution 1)  totally condemns T-TPLF’s crimes against humanity, 2) expresses impatience and dissatisfaction with the Obama Administration’s  do-nothing about human rights approach in Ethiopia, 3) demands direct policy action by the U.S. Secretary of State to secure  improvements in the human rights situation in Ethiopia or to review use of US aid as leverage, and 4) serves clear notice to USAID to undertake programs and activities that could help improve human rights and democratization in Ethiopia.

The catalog of T-TPLF crimes against humanity in the Resolution

I believe the first part of the Resolution, for all intents and purposes represents, amounts to a legislative “indictment” against the T-TPLF for crimes against humanity.

The Senate Resolution declares that T-TPLF has:

Engaged in “serious human rights violations, including arbitrary arrests, killings, and torture committed by security forces as well as restrictions on freedom of expression and freedom of association, politically motivated trials, harassment, and intimidation of opposition members and journalists.”

Engaged in “state sponsored violence against those exercising their rights to peaceful assembly in Oromia and elsewhere in the country, and the abuse of laws to stifle journalistic freedoms, stand in direct contrast to democratic principles and in violation of Ethiopia’s constitution”.

Caused “democratic space in Ethiopia [to] steadily diminish since the general elections of 2005”.

Rigged elections and claimed to have won “100 percent of parliamentary seats”.

Abused a so-called “Anti-Terrorism Proclamation to limit press freedom, silence independent journalists, and persecute members of the political opposition.”

Restricted and virtually stamped out “civil society and nongovernmental organizations, particularly those investigating alleged violations of human rights by governmental authorities”.

Persecuted and prosecuted journalists and bloggers and created a climate of fear and “coercive environment” for the press.

Killed “at least 200 peaceful protesters in the Oromia region and that number is likely higher.”

Condemnation of the T-TPLF regime in the Resolution

The Senate Resolution without reservation

Condemns (A) killings of peaceful protesters and excessive use of force by [T-TPLF] security forces; (B) [T-TPLF] arrest and detention of journalists, students, activists and political leaders who exercise their constitutional rights to freedom of assembly and expression through peaceful protests; and (C) [T-TPLF] abuse of the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation to stifle political and civil dissent and journalistic freedoms.

Call for T-TPLF Action in the Resolution

The Senate Resolution makes specific demands on the T-TPLF:
  • Halt the use of excessive force by security forces;
  • Conduct a full, credible, and transparent investigation into the killings and instances of excessive use of force that took place as a result of protests in the Oromia region and hold security forces accountable for wrongdoing through public proceedings;
  • Release dissidents, activists, and journalists who have been jailed, including those arrested for reporting about the protests, for exercising constitutional rights;
  • Respect the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and guarantee freedom of the press and mass media in keeping with Articles 30 and 29 of the Ethiopian constitution;
  • Engage in open and transparent consultations relative to its development strategy, especially those strategies that could result in people’s displacement from land;
  • Repeal proclamations that can be used as a political tool to harass or prohibit funding for civil society organizations that investigate human rights violations, engage in peaceful political dissent, or advocate for greater political freedoms;
  • Repeal proclamations that prohibit or otherwise limit those displaced from their land from seeking remedy or redress in courts, or that do not provide a transparent, accessible means to access justice for those displaced.
“Step up”: The Obama Administration’s must abandon its do-nothing policy to improve human rights in Ethiopia 

The Resolution diplomatically intimates that the Obama Administration has done little or nothing to help improve the human rights situation in Ethiopia.

Stripped off the diplomatic euphemism, the Resolution asserts the Obama administration has been talking the human rights talk in Ethiopia but unwilling to walk the human rights talk.

The Resolution declares that Obama got T-TPLF leaders to “commit” to “deepen the democratic process and work towards the respect of human rights and improving governance” in July 2015, but the outcome since has been massacres and more repression.

The Resolution calls on the Obama Administration to “review of security assistance to Ethiopia in light of recent developments and to improve transparency with respect to the purposes of such assistance to the people of Ethiopia”.

The Resolution further “calls on the Secretary of State [and] the Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development, to improve oversight and accountability of United States assistance to Ethiopia.

Senate Affirmation of Respect for Human Rights in Ethiopia

The Senate Resolution affirms that the U.S. Senate “stands by the people of Ethiopia, and supports their peaceful efforts to increase democratic space and to exercise the rights guaranteed by the Ethiopian constitution.”

What Does the Resolution Really Mean?

It is important to note that the Senate Resolution (“simple resolution) is a legislative act intended to signify the Senate’s “sense” of what is happening in Ethiopia and what needs to be done. (See Senate Rule 30, adopted 2/4/15.)

When the Senate seeks to state its views, opinions and position, make a point or send a warning on an issue of importance, it employs a simple resolution to get its message across. The Senate Resolution on Ethiopia aims to express the opinion of a majority of Senators.

It is also important to understand simple resolutions, unlike regular “bills” and “resolutions” do not have the force or effect of law nor do they require presidential signature.

So, a reasonable question is why bothered to pass a “simple resolution”?
Though simple resolutions do not have the binding effect of law, they serve some important purposes. They are used by either house of Congress to:
  • Go on record and take a position on a particular issue and express support or opposition for a particular action, policy, proposal, idea, plan, program, etc.
  • Generate preliminary support or opposition among members for an intended or anticipated action and build momentum;
  • Serve notice to the President that the Senate or House are contemplating imminent action on a particular issue and urge executive corrective action obviating the need for more formal legislative action.
  • Notify U.S. departments and agencies and foreign governments that the U.S. Congress is watching a specific issue with special attention and concern.
  • Communicate a specific message in foreign affairs (to foreign leaders) that a certain state of affairs in a particular country or region is unacceptable to the people of the United States and that legislative actions could follow if the circumstances persist;
  • Apply subtle pressure on foreign governments to make changes in policy.
  • Signify a change in policy or possible forthcoming legislation.
  • Signify the possibility of public hearings.
The bottom line is that Senate resolutions are taken very seriously by most foreign governments and agencies and department of the U.S. Government. It is not unreasonable to suppose that the T-TPLF ignoramuses will chafe and ignore it.

Faced with a similar legislative situation in 2007, Meles Zenawi, the late leader of the T-TPLF, angrily and sarcastically lashed out at Congress at the U.S. Congress: “The Ethiopian government isn’t willing and is unable to be run like a banana republic from Capitol Hill or anywhere else.”

In 2009, I demonstrated that Meles’ government was quite willing to be treated like a “barley republic from Jeddah or any of the other Gulf states.” At the time, Zenawi was handing out millions of acres of Ethiopian land to so-called Saudi and Gulf “investors”.

In the Ethiopia Senate Resolution, there is little doubt that the T-TPLF will pay special attention. I do not doubt that the T-TPLF is consulting its Big Bucks lobbyist on what to do to nip the resolution in the bud. The T-TPLF has learned from the past (Remember H.R. 2003) that if it pays its lobbyists USD $50,000 a month it could stop cold any legislation in the U.S. Congress.

Demand for USAID Accountability in the Senate Resolution

My readers will recall my letter to USAID Administrator Gayle E. Smith dated March 16, 2016, in which I demanded accountability and transparency in USAID administration of American aid in Ethiopia. I asked Ms. Smith:

What safeguards, if any, are in place to ensure the ruling regime will not put any of the $500 million to political purposes?

What accountability processes are in place to ensure the prevention of corruption in the administration of the aforementioned assistance in Ethiopia? How much of the $500 million is provided to the ruling regime in Ethiopia in the form of discretionary or non-discretionary expenditures?

I am glad to see the April 20, 2016 Senate Resolution makes a similar demand by call[ing] on the Secretary of State, in conjunction with the Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development, to improve  oversight and accountability of United States assistance to Ethiopia pursuant to expectations established in the President’s 2012 Strategy Toward Sub-Saharan Africa.

Unanswered Questions

There are many who ask myriad questions about the Senate Resolution. Why now? Where have they been all these years? Does the resolution mean the Senate has something “up its sleeve”? Is it just rhetoric? What is going to happen next? Is the Senate really serious about human rights violations in Ethiopia? Should Ethiopians be hopeful the resolution will produce immediate improvements in the human rights situation in Ethiopia? Will the Senate resolution end up being just talk and no action? And on and on.

It is hard to give definitive answers to these questions.

The U.S. legislative process is very complex requiring bicameral action to enact legislation subject to presidential veto. The American legislative system is structurally designed to function in a slow and deliberate process subject to constitutional and internal legislative rules.

We have learned firsthand how a bill to promote human rights and democracy could be subjected to massive lobbying efforts to defeat it when we worked to pass H.R. 2003 (Ethiopia Democracy and Accountability Act).
Regardless, I am not concerned.

I wholeheartedly agree with Thomas Payne, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States, who said in a speech on December 23, 1776:

Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives everything its value… I love the man that can smile in trouble that can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection.

I am smiling! 

Supporting respect for human rights and encouraging inclusive governance in Ethiopia

By U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations 
April 22, 2016

114TH CONGRESS 
2D SESSION S. RES. ll

Supporting respect for human rights and encouraging inclusive governance in Ethiopia.

IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES

Mr. CARDIN (for himself, Ms. CANTWELL, Mrs. MURRAY, Mr. MARKEY, Mr. COONS, Mr. MENENDEZ, Mr. LEAHY, Mr. FRANKEN, Mr. DURBIN, Ms. KLOBUCHAR, and Mr. RUBIO) submitted the following resolution; which was referred to the Committee on --------------------

RESOLUTION

Supporting respect for human rights and encouraging inclusive governance in Ethiopia.

Whereas the first pillar of the 2012 United States Strategy Toward Sub-Saharan Africa is to strengthen democratic institutions, and the United States Agency for International Development Democracy, Human Rights, and Governance Strategy states that strong democratic institutions, respect for human rights, and participatory, accountable governance are crucial elements for improving people’s lives in a sustainable way;

Whereas the third pillar of the 2012 United States Strategy Toward Sub-Saharan Africa is to advance peace and security, including supporting security sector reform;

Whereas democratic space in Ethiopia has steadily diminished since the general elections of 2005; 

Whereas elections were held in 2015 in which the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front claimed 100 percent of parliamentary seats;

Whereas the 2014 Department of State Human Rights Report on Ethiopia cited serious human rights violations, including arbitrary arrests, killings, and torture committed by security forces as well as restrictions on freedom of expression and freedom of association, politically motivated trials, harassment, and intimidation of opposition members and journalists;

Whereas the Government of Ethiopia has repeatedly abused laws such as the 2009 Anti-Terrorism Proclamation to limit press freedom, silence independent journalists, and persecute members of the political opposition;

Whereas laws such as the 2009 Charities and Societies Proclamation have been used to restrict the operation of civil society and nongovernmental organizations in Ethiopia across a range of purposes, particularly those investigating alleged violations of human rights by governmental authorities;

Whereas the case of the ‘‘Zone 9 Bloggers’’, whose arrest, detention, and trials on terrorism charges brought international attention to the restrictions on press freedom in Ethiopia, is indicative of the coercive environment in which journalists operate; 

Whereas the Ethiopian Human Rights Council reports at least 102 protestor deaths, and according to Human Rights Watch, Ethiopian security forces have killed at least 200 peaceful protestors in the Oromia region, and that number is likely higher;

Whereas state sponsored violence against those exercising their rights to peaceful assembly in Oromia and elsewhere in the country, and the abuse of laws to stifle journalistic freedoms, stand in direct contrast to democratic principles and in violation of Ethiopia’s constitution; and

Whereas, during President Barack Obama’s historic visit to Addis Ababa in July 2015, Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn expressed his government’s commitment to deepen the democratic process and work towards the respect of human rights and improving governance, and noted the need to step up efforts to strengthen institutions: Now, therefore be it Resolved, That the Senate—

(1)  condemns—

(A)  killings of peaceful protesters and excessive use of force by Ethiopian security forces;

(B)   arrest and detention of journalists, students, activists and political leaders who exercise their constitutional rights to freedom of assembly and expression through peaceful protests; and

(C) abuse of the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation to stifle political and civil dissent and journalistic freedoms;

 (2)  urges protesters in Ethiopia to refrain from violence;

 (3) calls on the Government of Ethiopia—

(A) to halt the use of excessive force by security forces;

(B) to conduct a full, credible, and transparent investigation into the killings and instances of excessive use of force that took place as a result of protests in the Oromia region and hold security forces accountable for wrongdoing through public proceedings;

(C) to release dissidents, activists, and journalists who have been jailed, including those arrested for reporting about the protests, for  exercising constitutional rights;

(D) to respect the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and guarantee freedom of the press and mass media in keeping with Articles 30 and 29 of the Ethiopian constitution;

(E) to engage in open and transparent  consultations relative to its development strategy, especially those strategies that could result in people’s displacement from land; and

(F) to repeal proclamations that

i) can be used as a political tool to harass or prohibit funding for civil society organizations that investigate human rights violations, engage in peaceful political dissent, or advocate for greater political freedoms; or

ii) prohibit or otherwise limit those displaced from their land from seeking remedy or redress in courts, or that do not provide a transparent, accessible means to  access justice for those displaced;

(4) calls on the Secretary of State to conduct a review of security assistance to Ethiopia in light of recent developments and to improve transparency  with respect to the purposes of such assistance to the people of Ethiopia;

(5) calls on the Administrator of the United States Agency for International
Development to immediately lead efforts to develop a comprehensive strategy to support improved democracy and governance in Ethiopia;

(6) calls on the Secretary of State, in conjunction with the Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development, to improve oversight and accountability of United States assistance to Ethiopia pursuant to expectations established in the President’s 2012 Strategy Toward Sub-Saharan Africa; and

(7) stands by the people of Ethiopia, and supports their peaceful efforts to increase democratic space and to exercise the rights guaranteed by the Ethiopian constitution.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Press Statement by the Ethiopian People's Congress for United Struggle (Shengo)

April 22, 2016

Following the European Parliament’s Resolution of January 21, 2016 on the situation in Ethiopia “strongly condemning the recent use of excessive force in Oromia and in all Ethiopian regions,” Shengo expressed its appreciation to the EU and called upon the Congress of the United States to take a similar stand. In this regard, we recognize the concerted and relentless campaign made by Ethiopian civil society, political, spiritual and professional groups as well as individuals.

The United States Senate Resolution “supporting respect for human rights and encouraging inclusive governance” in Ethiopia could not have come at a most opportune and critical time in Ethiopia’s long history. In particular, we note with appreciation that the Senate “condemns killings of peaceful protestors and excessive use of force by Ethiopian Security forces, the arrest and detention of journalists, students, activists and political leaders, and the abuse of the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation to stifle political and civil dissent and journalistic freedom.”

Shengo has been calling on the government of Ethiopia to release all political prisoners, desist from forcible evictions of indigenous people from their lands and repeal the draconian 2009 Anti-Terrorism and Charities and Societies Proclamations that have been used as blunt instruments to punish dissidents and to degrade civil society. We are encouraged by the Senate’s call on the government of Ethiopia to “refrain from violence (state, our emphasis), halt the use of excessive force by security forces and conduct a full, credible, and transparent investigation into killings that took place in Oromia, and hold security forces accountable for wrong doing through public proceedings, repeal proclamations that are used as political tools to harass or prohibit funding for civil society organizations.”

We are especially encouraged by the Senate’s “Call on the Secretary of State to conduct a review of security assistance to Ethiopia.” Ethiopian civic, political groups, academic and professional groups have questioned repeatedly the wisdom of providing American security assistance to a state and government that uses these tools to punish its own people with impunity. Equally, we are encouraged by the prospect that USAID “would advance democracy and governance” and apply due diligence and oversight in the provision of both humanitarian and development assistance. The government of Ethiopia continues to deny food and other forms of humanitarian assistance to potential dissidents and non-party members. It also restricts official development assistance on the basis of political and ethnic loyalty.


Last but not least, Shengo is enormously gratified by the resolution that the Senate “stands by the people of Ethiopia, and supports their peaceful efforts to increase democratic space.” Together, we have a golden opportunity to leverage the resolutions of the two most significant donors and diplomatic supporters to the Ethiopian regime.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

USAID Hunger Games in Ethiopia

Posted in Al Mariam's Commentaries By almariam On April 17, 2016
Hunger or famine games in Ethiopia?










USAID says there is no famine in Ethiopia, only hunger (a/k/a “severe malnutrition”, “food insecurity”, “food scarcity”, “food insufficiency”, “food deprivation”, “severe food shortages”, “chronic dietary deficiency”, “endemic malnutrition”, etc.) caused by El Nino drought.
I say there is famine, as in F-A-M-I-N-E!

In countless commentaries over the past 8 years, I have called attention to the occurrence, recurrence and flareup of famine in different parts of Ethiopia.
Is there or is there not famine in Ethiopia in April 2016?
The only people in Ethiopia who could answer that question are the people who are facing the Black Horseman of the Apocalypse straight in the eye.
They have spoken.
The people of Tigray have told USAID they are facing FAMINE as never before.
A couple of weeks ago, the people of Tigray told Jeremy Konyndyk, Director, USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance that they are teetering on the verge of total collapse.


Konyndyk summarized what the people of Tigray told him:
This drought is massive.  It is the worst drought in 50 years in most of this country… When we were out in Tigray yesterday we spoke with many people living in communities there who told us  this was the worst drought they had ever seen in their lives — worse in many cases than the conditions that their areas had seen in 1983, 1984.  And yet we also know that the outcomes of this drought don’t need to look like the outcomes in 1984…” (Emphasis added.)

What were the “outcomes” in 1984?
In 1984, 32 years ago, Ethiopians in Tigray region and other parts of northern Ethiopia  faced “biblical famine”.

Today even though the people of Tigray are telling Konyndyk and USAID that they are facing “the worst drought they had ever seen in their lives” and by Konyndyk’s admission is the “worst drought in 50 years,  Konyndyk and USAID adamantly refuse  to use the “F”amine word to describe their catastrophic condition.
Is Konyndyk willfully ignorant or simply turning a deaf ear to the people of Tigray?
There is no question Konyndyk would have heard the same story if he had visited various parts of Oromia, Afar, Amhara and SNNPR regions devastated by the “drought”/famine.
Frankly, I do not know why Konyndyk did not go to the other regions.
Perhaps the T-TPLF would not allow Konyndyk  to go to the other regions. The T-TPLF probably thought  Konyndyk would go to Tigray, listen to the T-TPLF line about “very severe malnutrition”, do a photo op and come back and do a press conference at the  “5 star” Marriott Hotel in Addis Ababa.
But the people of Tigray would not lie for the T-TPLF by saying they are facing “very severe malnutrition”.  They told him the real deal. They ARE suffering from biblical FAMINE!

Wouldn’t it make sense for Konyndyk, the chief U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance, to visit at least a couple of the other regions as part of a more complete  fact-gathering effort?
Perhaps Konyndyk did not bother to go to the other regions because he believed that if you have seen one “drought”/famine, you’ve seen ‘em all!
Konyndyk  and USAID talk about DROUGHT, DROUGHT, DROUGHT…?
But they never ask and answer in public the logical next question: What are the effects and consequences of DROUGHT?

Konyndyk glossed over the question in his interview. He just said the “outcomes of this [2016] drought don’t need to look like the outcomes in 1984.”
What exactly were the “outcomes” of the “drought” in 1984?
Konyndyk says Ethiopia is facing “massive drought” today, the worst in 50 years!
A massive drought in 1984-85 caused massive famine in Ethiopia. But Konyndyk wants us to believe a massive drought in 2016 is just a massive drought?

“Oh! What a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive.”
There was a time when USAID used to be able to tell the truth about drought/famine in Ethiopia.
That was three decades ago! How time flies and the Big Lie flies with time.
USAID in its “Final Disaster Report: Ethiopia Drought/ Famine, FY 1985-1986” (p. iii) told it like it was:

In 1984, the world came to know, through the nightly television news broadcasts, the tragic plight of the famine victims in Ethiopia. By the end of 1984, with nearly 8 million people In Ethiopia considered at risk of death due to starvation, appeals were made for 1.3 million metric tons of food, in addition to millions of dollars in other emergency relief supplies. The response was tremendous. (Emphasis added.)

In April 2016, Konyndyk says:
It is the worst drought in 50 years in most of this country… The figure, the estimate of the people in need of relief are about, well they exceed 10 million and that’s the current projections.  We expect that the period over the summer will be the worst period…” (Emphasis added.)

Even though Ethiopia is in “the worst drought in 50 years”, Konyndyk gags and chokes as he tries to utter the “F”amine word.
“How inexpressible is the meanness of being a hypocrite! How horrible is it to be a mischievous and malignant hypocrite?”, quizzically ruminated Voltaire.
How come the world does not see on “nightly television news broadcasts” bloated and emaciated Ethiopian children ravaged by famine?

The answer is simple: The T-TPLF has stonewalled and sandbagged all information from the famine-stricken areas.
Any journalist who reports from the famine-stricken areas will be charged under the T-TPLF’s bogus “anti-terrorism” law.
But it is not only journalists who are gagged and censored by the T-TPLF.
The T-TPLF has also delivered stern warnings  and threats to non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that if they use the “F”amine or “S”tarvation words or phrases like “children are dying on a daily basis,” “the policies of the government in Ethiopia are partially to blame” in their public statements, they will be kicked out  on their tails before they can say Jack!

When will we begin to see a few smuggled photos of bloated and emaciated Ethiopian children famine victims on “nightly television news broadcasts”?
Simple. As soon as the T-TPLF allows the international media free access to the famine-stricken areas.
Konyndyk would have done American taxpayers a great service if he had brought along with him international journalists to visit Tigray region and other parts of the country to freely report on the famine/”drought”.
Is it too much to ask that USAID operate with minimal transparency in a country where it claims to be the Second Coming?

Konyndyk sat at the Addis Ababa “5-star” Marriott and fielded softball questions from representatives of international media: (How ironic! Talking about starving people hanging out at a “5 star hotel”? WOW!!!)

Paul Shem (Associated Press/ Washington Post): “A lot of aid agencies were saying about a month or two ago that there’s a chance of the food pipeline breaking down… ?”
Konyndyk: “On the food pipeline issue… We’ve also been talking with the Ethiopian government who are very keen to avoid that… I’ll defer to them on what their plans would be for covering any break [in the pipeline]…”
Really!?
Eskinder (VOA Horn of Africa Service): “I see here that the HRD [Humanitarian Requirements Document] will be updated by the Ethiopian government and its partners.  Does this mean that, we already know that there are 10.2 million people in need of emergency food assistance?
Konyndyk: “We’re still, ultimately the [Ethiopian] government sets that number and we’re supporting the government in that process.” Really?!
Just like USAID supported the propagation of the bogus 10 percent annual economic growth figure fabricated by the “government”?
Andualem Sisay (National Media Group): “My question is about lasting solution for such humanitarian crisis.  We’ve been in such a situation every three and four or five years, so what is your suggestion for a lasting solution to such crises?”
Konyndyk: “That’s a great and a really important question…  [T]his is not an every four or five-year drought.  This is an every 50 years drought…  This is an extraordinarily strong global El Nino…   Ethiopia so far has had some of the most severe weather impacts of that, but southern Africa is suffering quite a lot as well now.” (Emphasis added.)

Really!? Ethiopia is El Nino’s chosen one this time around?
By the way, USAID knows how to synchronize talking points. USAID Administrator Gayle Smith said exactly the same thing in a recent interview: “This phenomenon called El Nino, [ ] is striking hard at a number of parts of the world, [but] nowhere harder than in Ethiopia.” (Emphasis added.)

They all babble from the same talking points!
Why can’t the various members of the international media go out in the drought/famine affected areas and report on their own?
Why must they be spoon-fed information sitting comfortably at a “5-star hotel”?
Konyndyk sits at the “5-star” Addis Ababa Mariott and showers his agency, the T-TPLF, the U.N. and the other partners with self-serving commendations and complements on a job well done.
Re: the T-TPLF, Konyndyk says, “I want to convey our thanks at the top to the government of Ethiopia for hosting a very useful visit and for the broader partnership that we’ve had together for many many years and the strong partnership that we have together on this response to the drought.”
“Many, many years and the strong partnership” with the T-TPLF!
I am cool with that.
Barack Obama visited Ethiopia in July 2015 and declared the ruling T-TPLF regime (the Thugtatorship of  the Tigrean People’s Liberation Front, an organization currently classified as a terrorist group by the Global Terrorism Database,  which claimed to have won the May 2015 parliamentary elektion by 100 percent) “democratic”.

I guess that’s what strong partners do for each other. Lie through the teeth for each other.
If Barack Obama can stand in front of the world and call the T-TPLF democratic, no one should be  surprised when Konyndyk stands in front of the world and denies there is FAMINE in Ethiopia.

There is an old Ethiopian saying, “Fish stinks from the head.”
Konyndyk acknowledges, “Thanks as well to our partners from the United Nations and the NGO community who are doing really tremendous and heroic work supporting the response to this drought.”
Wouldn’t these words sound more convincing if they were said by the international media?
USAID says the cause of “hunger” (a/k/a “very severe malnutrition”, etc.)  in Ethiopia is drought caused by “El Nino” (warming of the ocean surface resulting in a shift in atmospheric circulation and reduced rainfall).
Not only is El Nino the cause, it seems, if one is to believe USAID Adminstrator Gayle E.Smith , El Nino is sent by Providence to punish Ethiopia.

I was so incensed by Smith’s nonsensical statement that I wrote a letter asking her why she thought Ethiopia was singled out by El Nino and struck harder than any other country on the planet.

I also asked Smith if she believed poor governance, lack of planning and organization by the T-TPLF is an actual cause or at least a partial proximate cause for the “drought”, or at least an aggravating factor in the causation, spread and/or persistence of the current “drought” in Ethiopia.
Smith passed my letter off to her assistant administrator to respond. In his letter, the assistant administrator tried to finesse me with bureaucratic mumbo jumbo: “First, we acknowledge that food shortages and livestock losses related to the drought are having a direct and significant impact on people’s ability to thrive.”

What happens to people who cannot “thrive” because they have absolutely nothing to eat?
I say the root cause of the persistence of famine in Ethiopia is the depraved indifference of “El T-TPLF”.

El T-TPLF  has been in the saddle of power in Ethiopia for the last 25 years. In May 2015 El T-TPLF claimed to have won 100 percent of the seats in “parliament.
In 2010, El T-TPLF claimed to have won 99.6 percent of the seats in “parliament”.
El T-TPLF has been in total control of Ethiopia for the past 6 years after rigging elections.
What has the T-TPLF done to prevent “very severe malnutrition” in Ethiopia over the past 6 years?
Not a doggone thing!
What has the T-TPLF done to deal with the effects of a “very severe malnutrition”?
Not a doggone thing!
What the T-TPLF has done is siphon off humanitarian aid and spirit it out of the country into its off shore accounts.
What the T-TPLF has done is stretch out its begging bowls year after year for international alms and handouts.
I guess not much more could be expected from Africa’s premier Baksheesh (Beggar) State.

USAID and T-TPLF in Denial-istan, Ethiopia

The T-TPLF and USAID have entered into a silent conspiracy of famine denial in Ethiopia.
They give self-congratulatory and self-laudatory interviews from Denial-istan, Ethiopia and expect the world to buy their lies, damned lies and statistics.
The T-TPLF (the “LF” in T-TPLF stands for “Lie Factory”) has been denying the occurrence of famine for at least eight years.
When the T-TPLF leaders were in the bush, famine was the all-important issue and topic. They claimed famine alleviation and prevention is their be-all and end all.
In 1985 when hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians were dying of famine, the late Meles Zenawi  said:

There is no point in fighting if the people are finished. This is the saddest time in my life. I have seen many desperate times. But none of them is as desperate as this one. Because the people I am fighting for are dying because of lack of food. They are hardworking but because of lack of support, because of lack of scientific agricultural practices these people are dying. Because of no fault of themselves. That is the toughest thing for a fighter to face. (Emphasis added.)

(Yeah, right! In 1984-86,  Meles and his crew siphoned off tens of millions of dollars earmarked for famine relief in the Tigray region to buy weapons and enrich themselves. Read all about it in my commentary  “TPLF Licensed to Steal”. That’s what I call easy money for a “tough fighter”.)

In August 2008, 17 years after sitting in power, Meles Zenawi waxed philosophical telling  Time Magazine, “Famine has wreaked havoc in Ethiopia for so long, it would be stupid not to be sensitive to the risk of such things occurring. But there has not been a famine on our watch — emergencies, but no famines.”

Meles Zenawi’s “Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development”, Mitiku Kassa,  echoed  his boss stating, “In the Ethiopian context, there is no hunger, no famine… It is baseless [to claim famine], it is contrary to the situation on the ground. It is not evidence-based. The government is taking action to mitigate the problems.”

In 2011, Meles Zenawi pompously  declared, “We have devised a plan which will enable us to produce surplus and be able to feed ourselves by 2015 without the need for food aid.” In other words, famine, starvation, severe malnutrition, etc. will be banned from Ethiopia for eternity!

In January 2012, CNN asked  Meles Zenawi: “Ethiopia is facing a major famine. How can you justify spending on a military operation in another country when your own people are starving?” Zenawi responded, “There is no famine in Ethiopia as all humanitarian organizations will tell you. There is a serious drought, but we are able to keep our people fed….”

In June 2012, USAID reported:

The drought was considered in some parts of the region to be one of the worst in 60 years, affecting more than 13.3 million people in the Horn of Africa. The month before the official drought declaration, USAID’s Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) warned: ‘This is the most severe food-security emergency in the world today.’
In December 2015, T-TPLF “Deputy Prime Minister” Demeke Mekonen  said, “It is obvious that the foreign media works with different bodies of special interest. There is no such thing as famine in Ethiopia these days.”

On April 11, 2016, USAID  reported, “The projected level of relief food assistance for [Ethiopia in] 2016 is 10.2 million people.”

Does that mean 10.2 million people have nothing to eat and if handouts do not arrive on time,  a whole lot of them will die?!
Such is T-TPLF-USAID broadcasting from Denial-istan, Ethiopia. No famine! No starvation! No Nothing. Only El Nino-caused drought.
I will never forget what Meles Zenawi said in his very first press conference after parking himself comfortably in the saddles of absolute power in 1991. Meles said he would consider his “government a success if Ethiopians were able to eat three meals a day.”

Today, over 10 million Ethiopians are facing famine in the eye.
Today, the T-TPLF bosses and their cronies are living high on the hog.
Does the T-TPLF leadership today ponder on the ultimate litmus test of success set by its founder and visionary leader?
The T-TPLF leadership today does not give a rat’s behind about its dead visionary leader’s dreams of three meals a day or the millions of Ethiopian dying from FAMINE! That is a FACT!
But the famine is getting worse by the day in Ethiopia. Untold number are dying every day hidden from the world.
On April 12, 2016, Bloomberg News citing UN sources reported:

The number of Ethiopian districts identified as suffering a humanitarian emergency  increased 18 percent to 219 from December to March as the impact of drought worsened, the United Nations said.
Consecutive missed rainy seasons last year caused by the ocean-warming effects of El Nino have left about a fifth of Ethiopia’s approximately 100 million population in need of food aid. A total of 443 districts were categorized as being in at least some difficulty, up from 429 in December, the UN’s humanitarian office said Tuesday in an e-mailed bulletin.
Of those, 219 areas are defined by a “very severe lack of food security,” which may include “excess mortality, very high and increasing malnutrition, and irreversible livelihood asset depletion,” according to the government. Ethiopia comprises about 800 districts, or woredas. (Emphasis added.)

“Very severe lack of food security” sounds like, you know, F-A-M-I-N-E to me.
What could be worse than “very severe lack of food security”?
Very, very, very, very… severe lack of food security?
The “very severe lack of food security” could produce “excess mortality”.  I think that is a nice way of saying the famine (or is it drought?) is going to wipe out a whole lot of Ethiopians.
George Orwell said, “Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.”
The USAID, T-TPLF and the UN are engaging in semantic gymnastics to make the 2016 famine look like 10 milloin Ethiopians are missing mid-afternoon snack.
Why are USAID, the U.N and others lying through the teeth about the FAMINE in Ethiopia?
Why?
In May 2012, I wrote a commentary entitled, “African Hunger Games at Camp David.”

In that commentary, I complained about how Meles Zenawi and his international supporters and international poverty pimps have been able to play public relations and semantic games with famine and starvation in Ethiopia.
I get it!
It is embarrassing for a regime wafting on the euphoria of a bogus “10-11 percent economic growth over the past 10 years” to admit famine.
If USAID and their international “partners” begin to use the “F” word, then the U.S. Congress may have to conduct hearings into the causes and consequences. That means accountability for USAID.
The international press would be demanding access and accountability, and all hell could break loose.
Martin Plaut in a recent article in News Statesman argued, “Ethiopia’s “biblical” famines of 1973 – 74 and 1984 – 85 left hundreds of thousands dead, probably around 200,000 and 400,000 respectively. The first resulted in the overthrow of Emperor Haile Selassie; the second contributed to the end of the Marxist regime of Mengistu Haile Mariam.”

The T-TPLF knows it could share the fate of previous Ethiopians governments if the people find out the scope and magnitude of the FAMINE today.
That is why USAID and the T-TPLF react reflexively and defensively whenever the “F” word is mentioned. The T-TPLF  lackeys froth at the mouth condemning the international press for making “baseless” claims of famine, and castigate them for perpetuating “negative images” of the country merely because the international press insists on finding out verifiable facts about the food situation in the country.
USAID famine/hunger/ drought semantic games

USAID’s messaging and talking points on drought/famine in Ethiopia are carefully calculated to insulate and immunize the T-TPLF from any legal, moral and political responsibility for its depraved indifference to the spreading famine in Ethiopia.
USAID and the other international partners know full well the consequences of openly talking about FAMINE.
But USAID needs to know two simple facts:
1) Ethiopians are not as dumb as they look. You can stand up and tell them their lives under T-TPLF dictatorship is a democracy. But do not mistake their stony silence for stupidity. Do not insult their intelligence. Do not equate being hungry and poor with being stupid and dumb.

2) A rose by any other name would smell as sweet. But famine by any other name (“very severe malnutrition”, “El Nino caused drought”, etc.) is the bitter fruit of tyranny. (Is “very severe malnutrition” a kinder and gentler word for famine?)
USAID is free to defend its T-TPLF partners, cover up and tell lies for them and do whatever they like. Emile Zola said, “If you shut up truth, and bury it underground, it will but grow.”
The seeds that sustain life may not be growing in Ethiopia, but there is a forest of truth about the T-TPLF and USAID that is growing like weeds.
How shameless of USAID not to mention a single (not one) fact about the failure of governance and the failure to adequately plan for famine/drought mitigation?
How shameless of USAID not to mention the death of a single person (one person) from the 50 year-drought!!!

USAID thinks it can pull the wool over the eyes of Ethiopians by feeding them a steady diet of feel-good propaganda:
Thanks as well to our partners from the United Nations and the NGO community who are doing really tremendous and heroic work supporting the response to this drought.
This drought is unquestionably a disaster.  It is not necessarily a catastrophe.
It is entirely possible to ensure that we do not see severe, catastrophic outcomes due to this drought.
We have seen very clear leadership by the government of Ethiopia in tackling this drought.   I saw across the board a strong, strong political will, strong commitment to ensuring that this does not become a catastrophe.
[We can lick the famine in 2016] because we  have capacity and expertise that we did not have 30 years ago.  We have techniques and technologies we did not have.  We have specialized feeding products.
We’ve been working with the government.  The government has stepped up in a big way.  So there is a lot being done, there’s a lot that’s been achieved, there’s a lot that’s been in place.
USAID’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance deployed a Disaster Assistance Response Team to help prevent the drought in Ethiopia from becoming a full-blown humanitarian catastrophe. (Is a “full-blown humanitarian catastrophe” FAMINE?!

Why can’t USAID use the word FAMINE? “The 2016 drought in Ethiopia could become a full blown FAMINE.

J’accuse USAID!

USAID’s approach to famine prevention and mitigation in Ethiopia is HANDOUTS and MORE HANDOUTS.
The Indian economics Nobel laureate Amartya Sen argued that the best way to avert famines is by institutionalizing democracy and strengthening human rights: “No famine has ever taken place in the history of the world in a functioning democracy” because democratic governments “have to win elections and face public criticism, and have strong incentive to undertake measures to avert famines and other catastrophes.” Famines are kept hidden from public view by jailing opposition leaders, journalists and civic society advocates who could sound the alarm over an impending famine. That isexactly what is happening in Ethiopia today!

Barack Obama last July stood up in Addis Ababa and declared the T-TPLF is a “democratic government.” In his defense, he did not say a “functioning” democracy.
A non-functioning democracy is a thugmocracy. (That is what you get when you cross a thugocracy with democracy or when thugs hijack democracy.)

The T-TPLF is a thugmocracy.
The truth about famine in Ethiopia is occasionally told by honest members of the international donors and loaners.
In 2011, Wolfgang Fengler, a lead economist for the World Bank, in a refreshingly honest moment  for an international banker said, “The famine in the Horn of Africa is a result of artificially high prices for food and civil conflict than natural and environmental causes. This crisis is manmade. Droughts have occurred over and again, but you need bad policymaking for that to lead to a famine.” (Emphasis added.)

In other words, it is bad and poor governance that is at the core of the famine problem in Ethiopia, not drought, El Nino or El Nina.
Penny Lawrence, Oxfam’s international director, after visiting Ethiopia observed: “Drought does not need to mean hunger and destitution. If communities have irrigation for crops, grain stores, and wells to harvest rains then they can survive despite what the elements throw at them.”
Martin Plaut, BBC World Service News Africa editor explained that the food “crisis [in Ethiopia] is in part the result of policies designed to keep farmers on the land, which belongs to the state and cannot be sold.”
So the obvious questions are:

Why does a regime that has rejected socialism and is presumably committed to a free market economy insist on complete state ownership of land?
Why is there not an adequate system of irrigation for crops, grain storages and wells to harvest rains throughout the country?
What is the T-TPLF’s food security policy for Ethiopia?
Meles Zenawi said Ethiopia will not need food aid by 2015? Is that T-TPLF’s food policy?
In a 1992 article, Prof. Edmond J. Keller argued:

The ‘Great Famine of 1983-86’ was exacerbated by the ill-conceived  policies of the Derg. Because of climatic changes, the drought of that period was bound to be major, but under other circumstances its effects might have been mitigated through effective policies and timely foreign disaster relief. But the Ethiopian [Derg] regime seemed more interested in pursuing a  political agenda of statist control rather than a strategy designed to achieve food security.
Today, the T-TPLF  is more concerned about a political agenda of total statist land ownership and  land grabbing and land giveaways than a strategy designed to achieve food security by ensuring land security.
USAID cannot save El T-TPLF from accountability for famine in Ethiopia by blaming El Nino.
J’accuse USAID!

USAID! Stop insulting the intelligence of the people of Ethiopia as you watch them perish in famine.
Man up USAID!
If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck and walks like a duck, IT MUST BE A DUCK!
If it looks like famine, feels like famine and kills like famine, IT MUST BE FAMINE.
That is food for thought at USAID.
I will make USAID an offer they can’t refuse:
If USAID stops telling lies about the non-existence of famine in Ethiopia, I will stop telling the truth about USAID’s El Nino and severe malnutrition lies in Ethiopia.

Deal?!