“US stop supporting the genocidal regime in Ethiopia” voice of demonstrators in Washington, DC. September 19 2016.
By Teshome Debalke
Over the years, the Obama Administration officials praised and gave unconditional financial, military and diplomatic support for the ruling Ethiopian People Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) party that is still remained in power since 1991. Contrary to US Department Sates’ official report and despite warning and protest by various human right organizations’, the Administration kept ignoring the consequence of the regime’s mass atrocities, high-level corruption and complete control of the political, economic and social space of the nation.
The regime that instituted ethnic based Federalism that polarized and destabilize the population with full support of all US Administrations since it came to power in 1991 — replacing the Soviet backed Military regime.
President Obama himself on two separate occasions officially praised the ruling party in New York on a venue exclusively organized by his cabinet and on his first and the only visit to Ethiopia by a seating US President in July of 2015 at a Press Briefing held in the Capital Addis Ababa. The President, not only stated; the ruling party that declared to win the May 2015 Election by 100% of the votes two month prior as “democratically elected government” but, “a reliable partner to the United States” — unprecedented for any seating American President to publicly endorse a minority ethnic dictatorship.
Equally, European Heads of States led by the Former United Kingdom Prime Minister Tony Blair and Asian Head of States led by the Former The People’s Republic of China Premier Wen Jiabao praised the ruling party and continued to support and provide military and development aid contrary to its human rights violation and high-level corruption.
The Marxist-separatist group known as Tigray People Liberation Front (TPLF) that dominated the ruling EPRDF coalition Federal government that represent less than 6% of population from Northern Ethiopia came to power with the help as the benefactor of the end of the cold war’s policy change and Western governments’ support that followed. As a result, the first opportunity it undertook was to institute ethnic Apartheid Federalism to insure its survival and a constitution to match it by 1994.
Paradoxically, knowingly or unknowingly; Western governments including the US became a party in supporting the establishment of Apartheid government in Ethiopia for the first time since the last Apartheid regime of South African ended about the same time.
As expected, with massive financial, military and diplomatic support pouring in from the international community led by the United States, the ruling party spare no time to take advantage of controlling the political, economic, social, legal, and military establishments to become the sole ruler of the nation.
Unfortunately, Western governments’ to make the ruling party a partner on ‘regional security’ in the volatile Horn of Africa Region’s war on international terrorism followed by international development agencies’ reward as a poster child for ‘good governance’ and ‘economic development’ bolster its grips on power and corruption ever since.
President Obama that inherited the Clinton Administration’s Africa policy under the advice of the present Senior National Security Adviser Susan Rise is another bad African policy gone badly. Rise, the engineer of US-African policy has always been a stanch supporter of the ruling TPLF party ever since she began her public career in the Clinton Admiration in 1993 as Assistance Secretory of State for African Affairs under Secretory George Moose’s direction and later became the Secretory in 1997.
Her blind support for TPLF, an ethnic separatist group that later became the ruling party of Ethiopia was and continue to be irrational policy at best or in contradiction of the interest of the United States at worst. It can only emanate purely out of the personal friendship Rise developed with the late Chairman of TPLF and Prime Minster Melse Zenawi over the years that began in 1993 as Junior Assistant Secretary of State for Africa Affairs that ended with his unexpected death in 2012 when she was the US Ambassador at the United Nations.
Her Addis Ababa speech at his funeral, her New York speech at the first year and the London speech at the second year memorial service was unprecedented for any American seating high-level official responsible for sound policy advice to a President. It is a window of opportunity to explore where the present crises in Ethiopia as well as the hostility and the sanction towards the Eritrean regime originated.
Before the Clinton Administration, Herman Jay Cohen, the then Assistance Secretory of State for African Affairs in the George H. W. Bush Administration oversaw the transition and the ascendancy of TPLF to power in Ethiopia. From the outset; he was clear on the official US policy of his Administration with “No democracy, no cooperation”, according to May 1991 New York Times’ article titled “Ethiopian Seeks to Form Temporary Government” stating;
“Mr. Cohen, who had backed the entry of the forces of the front into Addis Ababa, as the only armed force that could establish order, cautioned today that aid would flow only so long as the new rulers of the country practiced democracy. “No democracy, no cooperation,” Mr. Cohen said.”
Though the George H. W. Bush Administration concern was over Marxist and separatist roots of TPLF and the Eritrean People Liberation Front (EPLF) feared to destabilize the country and the region further, Melse Zenawi’s shrewd approach to reassure Western governments’ concerns to provide him with badly needed assistance to consolidate power and neutralize the different factions he feared most played an important role. Among Melse’s fear were; the much stronger comrades in arms EPLF led by the present President Esayas Afewerki that fought alongside Melse to take over the nation as part of the transitional that eventually granted Eritrea’s independence from Ethiopia in 1993 as the Clinton Administration came to office.
The new US Administration with new Assistant Secretary of State for Africa Affair Susan Rise began the long relationship with the then President of the transitional government of Ethiopia as well as the hostility that followed towards President Isayas Afewerki of Eritrea around 1997 that remained the US policy at present.
At the meantime, in a twist of fate and after leaving a long public career in Foreign Service, the Former Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Mr. Herman Jay Cohen with his partner James Woods, a retired Pentagon fellow entered the private sector and formed Cohen and Woods International, a Washington, D.C.-based lobby group “specializing in advice and assistance to US companies doing business in Africa, and assisting African governments with their foreign relations.” where Cohen is the President and CEO of the firm, according IPS.
Inter Press Service on its May 20th, 2001article ‘African Governments Spend Millions on Lobbying’ by Jim Lobe confirmed;
“Favored lobbyists include former high-ranking State Department and other government officials, such as Herman Cohen, who served as Assistant Secretary of State for Africa under former President George Bush and whose partner, James Woods, held the equivalent position at the Pentagon”
Though Herman Cohen is a ‘favored lobbyist’ on Africa it is not clear whether he is directly retained to lobby on behalf of the Ethiopian government. But, the report indicated; two competitors were retained by the regime in Addis Ababa, stating; “Ethiopia has also paid a great deal to lobbyists, particularly after the outbreak of war in May 1998. It hired Verner Liipfert for some 225,000 dollars a year and C/R International at 300,000 dollars a year.”
The recent alleged leaked document claiming; Herman Cohen being retained by the Eritrean government reviled; Susan Rise is the sole person that decide the US policy on Ethiopia and Eritrea. Given her long history of friendship and admiration for the late Melse and his party, the Obama Administration’s unconditional support for the ruling party should come as surprise where the source of the crises in Ethiopia and Eritrea may be.
The Clinton Foundation alleged lobbying activities on behalf of the Ethiopian government under Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also arose interest a few years ago when a onetime 20 million US dollars ‘donation on behalf of the Ethiopian government’ came from the Ethiopian born Saudi national and business mogul Mohammed H. Al Amoudi of The Midroc Corporation with billions of dollars investment in Ethiopia.
A stanch supporter of the ruling party and the largest single foreign investment in country, Amoudi officially refuted on his personal website — his donation was purely for ‘Aid Awareness’ in Africa not for policy favor from the Administration. Amoudi is known to hire lawyers and lobbyist to intimidate the regime’s oppositions in the Diaspora and remained untouchable.
With Western governments’ policy in Africa reduced to who lobby most effectively or by how much money spent on lobbying or donation to various ‘Foundations’ led by the Clinton and The Bill Gate Foundation in the name of helping the African poor and economic development that includes various unregulated private equity investments pouring in Africa, the future for democracy and freedom looks blink for the majority of Africans including Ethiopians.
For instance, the ruling elites with the help of the Ethiopian government they control and in collaboration with Western and Eastern governments and foundations control the economic lifeline and resources of the nation. Therefore, there is no better example of US policy gone wrong as the crises looming in Ethiopia brought by the minority ethnic ruling Apartheid regime with the help of the US Administration’s policy at many levels.
The policy crises designed exclusively by the President’s Senior National Security Adviser Susan Rise and executed by various government, private and none governmental agencies, including USAID in the last two decades is cracking from its foundation. Held together by death squids loyal to the ruling elites and armed to the teeth courtesy of the war on international terrorism and in the name of National Defense Force, Peace Keeping and intelligence; the world is watching helplessly as millions of people are displaced, 100s of thousands being killed, jailed and exiled under the President watch.
As Ethiopian Americans and immigrants continue to protest in front of the White House as well as in Western capitals around the world, Ethiopian Americans should demand US Congress to inquire the responsible parties starting with Secretory Susan Rise and request the establishment of independent inquiry committee on the Administration policy and expenditure on the regime in Addis Ababa in conjunction with US Senate Resolution Bill 432 sponsored by Senator Benjamin Cardin [D-MD] and House Resolution Bill 861 sponsored by Rep. Smith, Christopher H. [R-NJ-4] in Foreign Relation Committee of both Houses until ‘supporting respect for human rights and encouraging inclusive governance in Ethiopia’ pass.
Letter to Chairman ED Royce, US House Committee on Foreign Affairs to hold a hearing on the US policy on Ethiopia would open the opportunity to find out who is responsible for the crises in Ethiopia.
As the regime and its beneficiaries spent millions of dollar for lobbying and PR to hide the ruling elites’ crimes against humanity and corruption, Ethiopian Americans and friends must organize to identify and expose them to the world and counter their activities by all the legal means available.
The Obama Administration’s failure to promote basic transparency in political and economic governance and not to mention failure to help the establishment of democratic institutions is lost opportunity for millions of Africans and Americans as well a tragedy for his legacy as his two terms presidency unwinds.
What Africans in general and Ethiopians in particular can learn from the first “African-American” US President celebrated more for his oration than action is; symbolism is the greatest distractor from the struggle for liberty and democracy here and abroad. In that regard, he; with all the power bestowed in him as a leader of the Free World failed to make a dent in democracy and transparent governance in Africa as well as in America – breaking all his promises by How Obama failed to shut Washington Revolving door.
When historian look back to write about the legacy of the first African American President, it will includes his accomplishment in empowering partnership between African dictatorships and corporate dictatorship at home in the government-nongovernmental-private-sector-partnerships with African strong men policy making or better illustrated by The Corporate Council on Africa unchecked power on US policy making on Africa.
While people are distracted by celebrity style Media vibe, the President bypassed every conceivable check-and-balance of the three branches of the government and the adversarial relationship within and out with the private sector, he created ‘partnerships’ with all and big men of Africa in the making US policy and circumventing the laws, the enforcements and prosecution of the statues governing foreign political and economic policies by overriding his Constitution mandate in the name of helping Africa.
The alarming merger between African big men and multinational corporate dictatorship under the Obama Administration policy are little understood by the mainstream establishments with far more consequences in regional stability, political and economic turmoil, migration and humanitarian crises to come in the near future. The Ethiopia case is good illustration of a one-man policy of the Administration disguised as helping African development without the proper channels and scrutiny.
It is high time; concerned lawmakers, mainstream Media and the public get involved to demand transparency from the Administration’s officials and all involved overwriting the law by unelected officials in the never ending revolving door policymaking of unelected officials and interest groups.
The increasing number of private equity investments in Africa in collaboration or partnership with the Administration’s spending with not much scrutiny is sufficient reason for Congress to exercise its constitutional mandated oversight before the three branches of US government as well as the Free Press become one as they are when it comes to Africa and they increasingly appear to be in the USA.
The President’s lack of commitment in the fundamentals of policy governance on Africa will impact the continent way after he leave office with more crises to come. His response to the ongoing crises of his policy on Ethiopia speaks volumes how little accountability exists within and his complete indifference to the plight of the people of Ethiopia.
It is time the Americans pay attention to put the house in order and make the President and his Administration officials accountable for their action or inaction.