By Eshete Mesganaw
The article posted by Reprieve International, a registered charity in the UK, has somehow revealed the kind of challenges and the level of influence that EPRDF holds against the UK. The consistent refusal of the Ethiopian Government to give consular access and fair trial for Andargachew Tsegie, a 62 year old Briton, prominent critic of the Ethiopian regime, who was detained unlawfully in 2014 while transiting through Yemen, has caused uproars in the UK and among Ethiopian diaspora.
The email leak from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) obtained by Reprieve regarding the consistent refusal to give consular access is an eye opening.The fact that the soft approach taken by UK has proved what Reprieve described as an “insensitivity” towards Tisge. Rather, contrary to the later’s assumption, EPRDF is actually bullying UK for its request to follow Andargachew’s case.
In Bible, Proverb 22:7 says “The rich ruleth over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.” All African countries are indebted which, though indirectly, have shape their policy direction. Ethiopia too is among the heavily indebted country that is rapidly reducing itself as a “servant” to its lenders. Although, Ethiopia more than its national interest cares for the interests of its lenders; it also caters its dubious service in containing terrorism to barter for aid. EPRDF renders its service as along as receives financial and political support to its illegitimate rule. Foreign support is sought non-other-than to achieve the twin goals of regime security and development assistance.
Although, U.K is the highest lender/financier next to UN and WB its influence over the latter seems waning. EPRDF’s conscious bulling towards UK, particularly with regard to Andargchew, is a clear indication that the later actually do lost its influence or will to encourage the regime for democratic reform.The reason why still tolerated the bulling as part of diplomatic business called non-intervention needs further analysis. However, Reprieve’s quote shows the level of frustration that the FCO in the words of Philip Hammond, UK secretary for FCO, saying “lack of progress risks undermining the UK’s much valued bilateral relationship with Ethiopia”. still, despite warning and declarations, there is no any progress.
In 2015 for the third year running, the government of UK met its commitment to spend 0.7 per cent of gross national income on foreign aid, with the official budget rising to £12.2bn and the biggest regional beneficiary of bilateral aid is Africa. Out of a total of £2.54bn last year Ethiopia alone received the £334m -the single largest amount in the continent. Why Ethiopia, even not a member of a commonwealth, receives such highest amount second to none? And yet Presumptuously give such huge amount to enable the regime.
The Department for International Development(DfID) Operational Plan 2011-2016 sets the reason for giving UK Official Development Assistance as “a stable, Secure and prosperous Ethiopia is critical to UK’s interest”. The literal meaning of the text gives how Britain sees Ethiopia and its role in the region. It matters in a range of Development, Foreign Policy and security reasons. Therefore, any negative change or disruption in the status quo would affect UK’s either real or imagined interest in the region. Therefore, continued existence of the regime is despite all its bad records and blatant refusal to heed reform calls, the west appeases using euphemisms like “anchor state” for being their satellite and ” development with purpose” for dictatorship.
DfID’s annual review of aid effectiveness in 2014 has summarized the reason why UK is giving such colossal amount of aid. The reasons mentioned are some genuine and others hoax; particularly when a country like UK which prides itself being democratic funds a regime which becomes an epitome of torture.
The Human Right context of the review reads as follows:
Ethiopia’s second Universal Periodic Review was in May 2014. Of 252 recommendations, Ethiopia accepted 188 (including that the government will take steps to ensure the 2015 elections are more representative and participative than those in 2010), rejected 11 and noted 53 (including to invite the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment to Ethiopia).
Then one can see how a regime despite being the highest recipient of fund refused to be reviewed in almost all the programs pertaining vital human and democratic rights. Satirically enough, the regime’s commitment to make political space open to ensure 2015 elections to be more representative than the pervious, has absolutely controlled parliamentary seats which left nothing to the opposition. One would seriously question why the UK keeps funding a regime which is consistently disregards any recommendations that are vital to democratic reforms. Sadly keeps financing the regime despite lack of progress in core democratic values.
Forecasting the regime’s behavior the review concluded: “Civil and political rights: long-term trends suggest that commitment is consistently low. (Behaviors and practices in the security and justice sector, a restricted electoral environment, restrictions on freedom of expression.)”
The review clearly shows that the government of UK are fully aware of the regime’s nature and mode of operations in stifling democratic participation. In spirit and letter, the document albite in a limited way, tries to encourage the regime to become more tolerant and accommodative. Nevertheless, what the problem appears is the UK’s soft approach, contrary to its cherished human rights and democratic values, has intentionally emboldened regimes’s resolve to remain in power.
The generous chasing enabled the regime to cling into power through the usual authoritarian means. And it seems perfectly working for the moment as the outcome of the 2015 election is endorsed half heartedly by the International Community.
DfID has explicitly affirms the importance of Ethiopia for its national security and believed a stable Ethiopia is critical to the region and beyond. Cooperations forged on security, migration and terrorism. Therefore, interests are intertwined and fears shared.
The rise of fundamentalism and lack of political control in the Horn of Africa has strengthened UK’s perpetual fear of terrorist attacks. All the incidents in the past: the London car, transit and subways bombs were organized by British citizens adopted from East Africa. Hussein Osman, with his Ethiopian born wife and sister in law, Yasmin Omar, and Mukhtar Said Ibrahim are from Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia respectively.
A recent study suggested the demographic composition of Muslims in the UK is set to rise from 2.9 m now to 5.6 m in 2030 from its current 2% of UK population to 4.6 %. As the majority of its Muslim community originated in Africa and its sizable numbers are from the Horn of Africa the strategic cooperation in security and terrorism is one major reason that the UK despite the later’s appalling Human Rights record keeps funding.
The US has its AFRICOM with modern technological gadgets to track-down terrorist from its base in Djibouti and Ethiopia. Chinese also establishing its base in Djibouti. It appears for the UK the only way to keep its interest served is through establishing a satellite state. So Ethiopia, as its leaders are quick to align their interest with donors, are ready to serve in whatever capacity. So the genesis of unholy alliance is their mutual desire to control the flow of information, people and fundamentalism in the Horn of Africa. Ethiopia, an arch rival to Somalia with historical enmity is keen to monitor the movements of fundamentalism and U.K on the other hand, having a sizable Muslims from the Horn of Africa, have strong desire to contain terrorist threats.
Unconscious collaboration or Connivance?
Mohamed Ardous an Ethiopian born Briton arrested and convicted in Ethiopia is another example. Mr. Ardous has requested the United Nation to probe into his detention. His lawyer said his client has subjected to various tortures including electric shocks and depriving sleeps to extract confession at the infamous Maekelawi-which is dubbed Ethiopian Gulag. The Independent in its publication has wrote the detainee suspects that the British intelligence either unconsciously collaborated or connivance in his arrest which prompted the head of the MI5, Andrew Parker, to respond by saying: “we do not participate, incite, encourage or condone mistreatment or torture.”
The Ethiopian government, what both the opposition and donors have failed to know about is, it operated based on premeditated and a well thought diplomatic manipulations. The arrest of other two Britons ( Mohamed Sharif and Mohamed Ahmed, from somaliland ) were very instrumental in convincing the UK that the Ethiopian government is a reliable partner in witch-hunting persons suspected as terrorist. As three Ethiopian born Britons were arrested since the Ethiopian Muslims started demonstrations. Later, the court passed a seven year prison term for the trio for an attempt to establish Muslim brotherhood and Islamic State and dozens of Ethiopian Muslim, notable Imams and journalists, are also convicted on similar trumped up charges based on a confession acquired through torture.
The documentary which was aired in the national TV shows the inhuman technics of interrogations being conducted on the detainees and how diligently the charges politically corrected to suite both domestic and foreign propaganda consumptions.
The reasons why UK hesitates to use its influence to free it’s citizens from the grip of an iron fist remains to be questionable. What exactly rendered UK to appease in face of such excesses is not a mystery that needs revelations.
UK should see its interest from the perspectives of the public than the regime which is neither permanent nor stable to depend on. The only way to forge sustainable cooperation is to base relation based on democratic values and principles that would reflect the aspiration of both nations. Development aid also should be evaluated from such approach than narrow and temporary interests.