TREATY OF PEACE WITH ITALY (1947), EVALUATION, AND CONCLUSION
PART FOUR: TREATY OF PEACE WITH ITALY (1947), EVALUATION, AND CONCLUSION
By Tecola W. Hagos
X. International Law and Ethiopia.*
A. The Treaty of Peace with Italy – Paris 1947
Lest I leave my readers thinking that my entire presentations end up supporting Isaias Afeworki’s Government claims as filed with the Boundary Commission, I must point out here that none of the treaties signed by Menilik were ever binding or valid. All such treaties are defunct, terminated, and null and void. Their nullity and voidness is not because they were “colonial treaties,” for none were colonial treaties, but due to several other international law principles and practices that render them null and void. They were never signed under duress or threat of colonialism, but as shown in this essay [See Section VIII, supra] they were signed for some other reason exclusively in the treasonous interest of Emperor Menilik II. The termination and nullity of all treaties was due to breach of treaties by Italy, and also due to Italy’s subsequent renouncement of all of its interests spelled out in the 1947 Treaty of Peace (Paris). Those are the main reasons for the termination of all treaties between Ethiopia and Italy. Moreover, some of those international instruments were of questionable worth even at the time of signing or before the 1947 Treaty of Peace (Paris) because of vagueness and none implementation because of impossibility of performance or abandonment. No delimitation or demarcation ever took place as required by some of those instruments.
The Boundary Commission was created under the Algiers Agreement of 2000 that was agreed to by the Governments of Meles Zenawi and Issaias Afeworki. It is common knowledge that the Algiers Agreement was the brainchild of the Governments of the United States and Eritrea. It was aimed toward one goal of depriving Ethiopia of its natural and historic coastal territories and territorial waters on the Red Sea and the province of Eritrea based on some esoteric theory developed since the 1970s by some junior bureaucrats at the State Department. In Meles Zenawi, the United States Government found a willing participant. On the part of the United States, the dismantling of Ethiopia seems to be part of its long-term strategy. I can only see the actions of the Government of the United States as an expression of extreme hate and total disrespect to Ethiopians and complete disregard of peremptory norms of international law principles and practices on non-aggression, sovereignty, and human rights. Yes, the Government of the United States, along with several other nations, provides enormous amount of humanitarian food and other assistances and also budgetary supplements that may be as high as seventy to eighty percentage of the yearly budget of Ethiopia. In other words, Ethiopia is dependent totally for its political and economic life on the United States. Therein lies the problem, for such dependency breeds contempt and disrespect.
When a party to a treaty, contrary to the terms of the treaty, resorts to using force in order to make the other party act or agree to some disputed article there is a breach. Such condition frees the other party to terminate and nullify the treaty and consider the other party in breach or default and sue for damages if there is some damage to the aggrieved party. This principle of long-standing international practice has been incorporated in Articles 42 – 53 of the 1969 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties. No matter how we analyze the relationship between Ethiopian leaders and the governments of Italy must have been, the fact remains that successive Italian Governments were the instigators of conflicts, the violators of international law and principles, the perpetrators of war of genocide, and the destroyers of the lives of millions of Ethiopians. The allotted compensation of twenty four million dollars in the Peace Treaty of 1947 did not even begin to address the harm committed by Italy to Ethiopia. We must open the file for additional compensation of at least ten to fifty billion dollars from the modern state of Italy. We must also prosecute the main players such surviving commanders and soldiers responsible for the genocide committed by Italian commanders and soldiers. We have not properly dealt with the deaths of millions of Ethiopians due to the war of aggression and brutal occupation of Ethiopia in the 1935-41 period by Mussolini and his Italian government.
The Italian Government by signing the 1947 Treaty of Peace (Paris) had declared and accepted the provisions of Article 23 stating that it had renounced “all right and title to the Italian territorial possessions in Africa, i.e. Libya, Eritrea and Italian Somaliland” [See Evidence: Eleven]. Such declaration of renouncement of all rights and title frees Ethiopia from all obligations to abide by any of the Treaties signed with Italy. Such renouncement takes us back to the period before the signing of those treaties. Thus, Ethiopia is at much more strong position to claim all of Eritrea and Italian Somaliland because there was no one with superior right at that time than Ethiopia with claims to those areas. The right thing to do at the conclusion of World War II and the signing of the Treaty of Peace with Italy was to return all of Eritrea and Italian Somaliland to Ethiopia, the only independent and viable nation that had legitimate claim to those former colonies or possessions of Italy. Ethiopia was in the field of operation against Fascist Italy. Even though the Second World War was designated to have been fought in 1944 to 1948, it would be an arbitrary designation for the Second World War started with Italy breaching the League of Nations by starting a war of aggression against Ethiopia, a fellow member of that international organization.
Ethiopians should never forget the great fight carried out by the former Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Aklilu Habtewold and his team members, such as Blata Ephraim Tewoldmedhen and Tesfaye Teguegne [whose premature death deprived Ethiopia of a quiet but effective seasoned diplomat], to have Ethiopia included as an aggrieved victim of Fascism and Nazism. Italy vehemently fought to have Ethiopia excluded from the process by mounting a campaign of misinformation, and possible corruption. It was the great skill and tenacity of the young international law lawyer, Aklilu Habtewold, that convinced France (hostile to Ethiopia), Britain (with conflict of interest, ambition to carve out an East Africa dominion), the Soviet Socialist Republic (against the interest of Ethiopia, with acute reservation as to the role of Emperor Haile Selassie), and the United States (very supportive with new strategy for the area in its mind) government representatives the justice of including Ethiopia in the Peace Treaty. Ambassador Zewde Reta in his monumental book has given us the invaluable and well-documented narrative of that historic period. [Zewde Reta 39-69, (2000)] Although it is necessary to use Zewde Reta’s book as an authoritative reference, I have decided to consider primarily the last document written by Aklilu Habtewold, a document prepared as part of his official statement to the Commission of Inquiry, as my main evidentiary document. [Document written by Tsehafi Tazaz Aklilu Habtewold, presented to the Commission of Inquiry on 21 September 1974 (Meskerem 10, 1967)]
[By way of a reminder to all, in case our memory is failing us, let me state that the Commission of Inquiry was established by the Derg in 1974. The Commission was chaired by Bereket Habteselassie, with several other members some of whom later turned out to be great leaders of civic organizations in great service to the people of Ethiopia. As was stated by its enabling Order, the purpose of the Commission was to enquiry into the corruption, and breach of responsibilities of the officials of Emperor Haile Selassie. The triggering event for all the political manipulation of the time was the death of tens of thousands of Ethiopians due to famine mostly in Wollo and adjacent Provinces in 1970-73. The role of the Commission took an ominous turn within a short period and become more or less a body of “inquisition” of a sort of political witch-hunting. A number of Ethiopians blame the Members of the Commission as collaborators for the death of the sixty high government officials and the imprisonment of several former government officials.]
The British Government was one of the first European governments to recognize the Government of Italy under which Ethiopia was submerged as a colony. Because of such premature and possibly racist jumping to forgo long-standing relationship, the interest of Ethiopia for conducting the war of resistance was undermined tremendously. The way the British government treated Haile Selassie during his stay in England was quite shameful. At any rate, the British being fully aware of the success of the Ethiopian Patriots fighting the Italian occupiers through out Ethiopia knew that the defeat of Italy was inevitable. The British seem to have decided to reingratiate themselves to Ethiopians by helping the weak Emperor, who had lost command of the resistance movement, thereby control the outcome of the inevitable defeat of Italy. When Haile Selassie entered Ethiopia, he did not come as the Emperor of Ethiopia but as a protégée of the British Government reduced in stature to that of a subordinate at best but more of a puppet. The very same government of Britain that had recognized the Fascist Italian Government of Mussolini as the legitimate colonial government over Ethiopia, claimed the mantel of liberator and controlled the foreign relation, internal government, and the military of Ethiopia with the signing of the 31 January 1941 Agreement. The defeat of Italy was not due to Britain’s last minute involvement, but was the logical outcome of the fierce resistance or guerilla fight conducted against the Italian forces by Ethiopian patriots.
Of course, Haile Selassie would have agreed to anything at that point, for his very continued wearing of the Ethiopian Crown was in great jeopardy. [See XI. International Dimension of Freedom and Independence, A. Britain and the Marginalization of Ethiopia, Infra] Aklilu’s account of the diplomatic ball-game between Ethiopia and Britain is quite illuminating. Especially his account of his struggle to overcome the subversive activities of the British Government during those bleak days in Ethiopian modern history is a great lesson for Ethiopians that Europeans and their descendants else where in the world are not true friends of Ethiopia or Ethiopians. What we learned from the records and historical writings of both Ethiopian and foreign authors is the undeniable reason why the British came into Ethiopia, which was for the sole purpose of dismantling Ethiopia where by they will form: (a) an East African colonial empire consisting of Ethiopian Ogaden, Somalia, and Kenya with possible addition of the lower Southern part of Ethiopia, and (b) a Sudanese colony adding most of Begemder, the Lake Tana and Blue Nile River Basin as part of their Sudanese colonial dominion. The starting of the Second World War saved Ethiopia from such treachery of the British. If I were poetic and subtle, I would say that we owe Hitler and Germany our Freedom! This is the background of a devious enemy in sheep clothing against which Aklilu worked to free Ethiopia from the vise-like grip of Britain that prophesied friendship, but in fact was carving out Ethiopia into ethnic enclaves. The 1944 Anglo-Ethiopian Treaty would never have been signed by Britain if the Germans were not breathing down its neck. Had Britain refused to recognize the full Sovereign power of Emperor Haile Selassie and the independence of Ethiopia at that time, both Italy and Britain would have been dealt with a humiliating defeat by the highly motivated and highly energized Ethiopian Patriots.
My blood freezes every time I hear about or come across this or that major street and school in Addis Ababa named after British “Generals” and other personalities from the British Empire. Italy was our public enemy that we fought openly, however, the British and their descendants from elsewhere were far worse enemies of Ethiopia camouflaged as friends. Let me paraphrase a cynical old prayer for our particular time and predicament, “Please, God protect us from our ‘Friends,’ for we can protect ourselves from our enemies.”
B. Uti Possidetis: The Bottleneck Theory
Ethiopia was the last independent nation that agreed to cede off those territories of Afar, Akale Guzie, Hamassien, part of Kunama, Serie, et cetera to Italy. Ethiopia had the superior title to claim sovereignty of the ex-colonies of Italy if we use the principle of uti possidetis and the standard used at that time to ascertain sovereignty. Since international law was evolving in such a way that the idea of terra nullius was not an acceptable principle to establish ownership, and since the concept of trustship was a new concept, the rightful owner in succession to the renouncement by Italy of its possessions is Ethiopia. The International Court of justice (ICJ) in several of its opinions has stated that “title” or “right” rather than “effective control” was the standard used in applying the uti possidetis principle in determining ownership or sovereignty on contested particular areas, in its first decade of decisions of the 1950s. [Haya de la Torre (Columbia V. Peru) ICJ Reports (1950); Arbitral Award Made by the King of Spain (Honduras v. Nicaragua) ICJ Reports (1958); Temple of Pereah Vihear (Cambodia v. Thailand) ICJ Report (1959)] Thus, by using the principle of intertemporality of international law, the standard used at that time in ascertaining boundary delimitation and demarcation in Latin American (except Brazil) nations Ethiopia’s claim of ownership and sovereignty in 1947 to its territory ceded to Italy may be affirmed.
However, I need to point out here that the ICJ seems to be still developing the concept of uti possidetis, and some may even say that the ICJ is confused in its application of the uti possidetis principle due to the emergence of several new independent nations from colonial status in Africa. In those recent cases the ICJ seems to favor the active “control’ idea as opposed to historic rights as was the case in the Brukina Fasso case. [Burkina Fasso v. Mali Boundary Dispute, ICJ Reports (1986)] At any rate, it seems that we have a long way before we can say the principle of uti possidetis is a settled principle of international law, which situation is helpful to Ethiopia. That may be the reason why the Boundary Commission did not use the concept in its decision of 13 April 2004.
Emperor Haile Selassie by Order No. 6 of 1952 (Official Gazette), on 11 September 1952 declared the 1900 Convention, 1902 Treaty, and 1908 Conventions between Ethiopia and Italy to be null and void. Such declaration completed the task of terminating the so-called colonial treaties, conventions or international instruments. Although not necessary for the purpose of my analysis in regard with the nullity or termination of any treaty-based obligation on the part of Ethiopia, it was a prudent step by Haile Selassie in formally declaring all Treaties entered with Italy prior to 1947 null and void.
It is not enough to glorify or simply be engulfed by our history and the deeds of our heroes. We all have serious duties we owe to our relations, fellow Ethiopians, and to our Ethiopia. This article may be offensive to some Ethiopians, but also informative to others. One thing I can say with absolute certainty is that I did not write this article or any of my previous articles in hate or aiming to hurt Ethiopians. I see the problem facing us to be enormous. On the other hand, it seems to me that we tend to avoid fundamental and serious discourse as to the reason why such a charming and truly ethical people fail constantly to improve both the economic and political condition of Ethiopia. Whether comfortable or roughshod, I believe we have to reexamine some of our assumptions on past important incidents to reconcile ourselves with monumental errors our leaders have made. I also believe acknowledging the selfish motives of our leaders in our past will only strengthen our bond as people and not undermine or destroy it since we have endured through much inequities and suffering. Nothing is worse than to build our Ethiopian house on false or poor foundation, for we will be constantly fearful of our house falling apart.
It is time to think about a different paradigm and new sets of values, priorities, and goals. For example, the decentering of Addis Ababa from Ethiopia is the one problem unless done soon will drag us all into purgatory, thus we have our first challenge cut out for us as our first focus for change. It is time to seek new avenue and a new navel center for our Ethiopia; even better, four or more centers would be superb. We are very different from our parents, probably a lot more confused and caught between layers of pseudo social structures (cultural, political, and economic) that do not mix. However, we have to do with what we have.
XI. International Dimension of Freedom and Independence
A. Britain and the Marginalization of Ethiopia
It is on the basis of sound historical evidence that I object to the close association of Meles with the British government and the modeling of the Ethiopian parliament after the British parliament. All associations with Britain and the United States (as I shall show later) are all setbacks to the democratization process in Ethiopia. After all, the British system of government is an archaic form of government with entrenched landed gentry controlling every facet of the economy of that country. The Queen and here family and all previous monarchs, as well as the feudal titled Earls, Lords et cetera control most of the land in Britain. Most nobles are descendants of foreign conquerors who subjugated Anglo-Saxon England in A.D. 1066 lead by William the Conqueror of Normandy (France). The Normans were never expelled. In other words, technically speaking, Britain is still under colonial rule. The Normans maintained their hold on power through extreme violence, and when critically challenged, by forming all kinds of arrangements with the local people and remind in power and in control of the wealth of the country over the centuries.
The obnoxious and rigid class structure in Britain was thus sustained, first by the exploitation of the labor of the British people and later by the looting and scavenging of the wealth of colonized people all over the world. Had it not been for Britain’s imperialist expansion and dumping of its excess population in the lands of natives in Australia, America, Asia and Africa for the last four hundred years, we would have been witnessing revolutions after revolutions in Britain. It is not an exaggeration to estimate the number of people who originated from Britain now living in their own newly created countries, such as the United States, Canada, Australia, South Africa, and in former colonies upward of two hundred fifty million people. My point is very clear, what we have here is a process of displacement and the gradual extinction of whole “races” of people.
The feudal social structure in Britain is so entrenched, and has transformed itself into the very social fiber of that society that it has become the source of their national pride. Ordinary citizens are so much woven into the social stratification that they revel in the luxurious life of their masters (hereditary lords and peers) whom they are allowed to watch from the curb. In addition, the fact that such a feudal country was taken as a model for Ethiopia’s parliamentary system of government is overwhelming. Any form of structure, which allows on the basis of biology alone the leadership of a country, even as a figurehead or token, is still an insult to one’s own humanity and dignity. In addition, in this I include all nations in the World who have similar government structures as described herein.
Even now, the imperialist character of the British government is evident in the structure of the Commonwealth organization, and the relationship of the British Government with the governments of its former colonies all over the world. For example, Australia is in the process of leaving the Commonwealth. The imperialist expansion in Northern Ireland, in the Falkland Islands at the tip of South America, and in some Commonwealth nations are clear examples of the imperialist ambition and reality of Britain, albeit at its declining stage. At times, this imperialist domination takes a far more subtle form. A typical example of this form of domination is best illustrated by the type of relationships that exist between the British government and the leadership of some Gulf States (Kuwait, Abu Dabi, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia et cetera). Petrowealth is rerouted back to the banks and industrial complexes of Britain, thereby underwriting the expenditure of that government and interjecting new wealth into the economy of the country.
The performance of the British government during the debate at the League of Nations in 1935, the recognition of the Italian occupation of Ethiopia as legitimate, the shameful treatment of Emperor Haile Selassie during his refuge in England, and the greed of its looting of Enemy property in 1941 are all manifestations of a sick and parasitic society and government. The so called self proclaimed “liberators,” the British Government, soon after the expulsion of the Italians, was perceived by the Ethiopian government as a hindrance and disruptive of the full exercise of Ethiopian government’s sovereign power over Ethiopia and Eritrea as well as the Ogaden region. The British government was perceived, correctly by the Ethiopians, as a party that had interest in Eritrea (the Red Sea, Egypt, Yemen and Arabia), and in the Ogaden (Somalia). It had also interest in the coffee and gold rich provinces of Ethiopia (Wollega, Kaffa). In regard to the later, during the war of liberation a delegation led by Jimma Oromos had approached the British government for autonomy and independence from the Imperial government of Haile Selassie. “The British were everywhere and acting as if Ethiopia was a colony. Moreover, General Sir Philip Mitchell, an arch imperialist and ex-colonial governor, had been charged with directing an ‘Occupied Enemy Territory Administration’ (OETA) over what Haile Selassie refused to acknowledge as anything but free territory.” [Marcus, 9 (1983)] Thus, the Ethiopian government distrust of the British government was based on real dangerous situations and events taking place in Ethiopia and elsewhere in the world as well, in 1941 to 1952.
Ethiopia was more or less fully under British military rule from May 1941 to January 1942, when the first Anglo-Ethiopian Agreement was signed, and remained dominated by British administrators and advisers until the second Anglo-Ethiopian Agreement was signed in 1944. There were two opposing British views on how to administer Ethiopia and the ex-Italian territories. The British foreign office was interested in keeping Britain’s reputation in the world free from suspicion of Imperialism, and to that end wanted Ethiopia to reorganize its administration without foreign tutelage. On the other hand, some of its officials such as Philip Mitchell and individuals mostly stationed at its colonial administrative offices and a group known as Cromerites, suggested a temporary British protectorate over Ethiopia and to detach the Oromo territories, which, after a period under British administration, would become an autonomous state. The Cromerites group was made up mostly of Sudanese and Kenyan civil servants. [Sbacchi, 218-9 (1989)]
The British commanders and officers in charge of the administration of Ethiopia and the ex-Italian territories of Eritrea and Somalia (Ogaden) further argued that Ethiopia was of strategic importance to the British Empire because it controlled the sources of the Blue Nile, the drainage basin and Lake Tana, which was of great importance to the Sudan and Egypt. It is highly probable that the alleged British imperialistic ambition in Ethiopia delayed the negotiations of the Anglo-Ethiopian Agreement. It must have been a very tempting proposition for the British government to acquire a very vast and rich territory such as the entire Horn of Africa in the confusion surrounding the period of the Second World War. Before Haile Selassie met the Chief Political Officer, Philip Mitchell, for the first time on 23 May 1941, it is reported that he told the former Italian Minister in Addis Ababa, that the British treated him like a vassal. Conditions in Ethiopia in 1941 were not much different to those in Egypt in 1882, when the British manipulated Ismaile Pasha into submitting to British dominance. For these reasons and his own ambition, Haile Selassie insisted on a written agreement with the British government and on acquiring advisers from more than one country. [Sbacchi, 218-9 (1989)]
The British government officials not only manipulated the political future of Ethiopia but also were involved in stealing and looting industrial and military installations left by the Italians. The dishonorable activities of the British government was witnessed by Ethiopians and also foreign diplomats with great concern, who observed or heard from first hand informers the extent of the looting of those installations by the British in 1941 and after. For example, the American Consul in Asmara, E.Talbot Smith, a truly upright man and ahead of his time in his belief of self-government for all and the development of territories under colonial rule under the United Nations, reported to his government in 1943 a sizzling condemnation of the looting activities and economic control and stranglehold by the British government of Ethiopia as “pure hypocrisy.” [Marcus, 15-6 (1983)]The activity of the British seems to confirm the fact that they were in Ethiopia to get their hands on Italian weapon and other war booty rather than help the Ethiopians to drive out the Italian occupiers.
It is a fact that by 1940 Mussolini was seriously losing his strategic initiative in Europe and the Balkans, and his military was stretched in North Africa and in East Africa. [Smith, 246-269 (1983)] By 1941, the Italian army was in serious difficulty in Libya and Greece, and the Italian military in Ethiopia was being routed out by Ethiopian patriots, there was neither prospect of getting additional weapon nor any reinforcement. The Ethiopian patriots were winning almost on every front when the British came with the Emperor into an already liberated Ethiopia. The Italians were bogged down in urban centers leaving the rural areas open to the patriots, and most of the Italians surrendered to British and Belgian Officers avoiding the possibility of surrendering or being detained by the Ethiopian patriots who were moving in on townships garrisoned by Italians. It was only a matter of few months, for the Italian occupation would have been overrun by Ethiopian patriotic fighters. It is under such situation that the British came into Ethiopia with their colonial troops with a handful of British commanders. It is very misleading to portray the British as winning the war against the Italians in Ethiopia in 1941. Where did the British fight the Italians? Which engagement? How many casualties? Such questions had never been satisfactorily answered. From eyewitnesses’ account who fought in a number of liberation battles, including my own father, the British only showed up after battles were won to accept surrenders and Italian prisoners of war. It is the Ethiopian patriots who fought and won the battle against the Italian occupation forces. The British involvement was just a sham designed to save Italian soldiers and to stave off another humiliation defeat of Europeans, and to scavenge the military hardware and industrial machinery of the Italians to be used by Britain in the inevitable larger theater of the Second World War three years in the future.
Afro-American volunteers who had earlier joined the Ethiopian forces in the fight against the Italians were invited by the Ethiopian Government to stay on and help in the post-war reconstruction of Ethiopia. They too were also put into the fry on the side of the Ethiopians against the British because of the British overbearing attitude. The Americans were also angry because of the fact that the British were looting enemy property left behind by the Italians in Ethiopia, which property included very valuable industrial assets that would have been used in the reconstruction effort of Ethiopia. [Harris, 149 (1994)]
Haile Selassie functioned with an eye on an escape-door within sight. At the time when he was decrying to the world that the League of Nations had abandoned Ethiopia to Italian aggression and colonization, he allegedly was also secretly negotiating with Mussolini in 1936 to cut a deal whereby he will receive salaries and title on condition he surrendered or abdicated his Throne in favor of his son Asfaw Wossen who in turn would enter into an agreement with the Italian government for payment of money and appointment with a ceremonial title as a subject of the Italian aristocracy. [Sbacchi, 122-26 (1989)] And after the liberation of Ethiopia in 1941 but still under British dominance he was once again negotiating with Italian former commanders in order to form some kind of tutelage or a protectorate government as an Italian subject in case the Axis powers were victorious. [Sbacchi, 122 (1989)] Ethiopian aristocratic and feudal leaders almost all of them were willing to abandon Ethiopians and save themselves sacrificing the people who had served them loyally. By the end of 1936 Mussolini was able to corrupt and buy the allegiance of most of the Rases and local feudal lords [Sbacchi, 129-144 (1989)] [Smith, 258 (1983)] with the exception of very few noble men who died fighting or were executed or who continued waging patriotic war of resistance. Even in our own time, Mengistu who boasted about his patriotic zeal, on every occasion of public address, abandoned his friends and associates at the first sign of adversity to save his skin in 1991 by sneaking out of the country like a common thief looting funds and valuable assets of the property of the people of Ethiopia. The exceptions were Emperors Tewedros and Yohannes.
The close association of the current Ethiopian government with the British government is heading in the direction of increasing national dependency and marginalization of Ethiopians. The security apparatus of the nation is being organized with the help of British police and security experts. The Overseas Development Administration (ODA), a counterpart of the United States’ AID office, is involved in the financing and recruiting of people who will be paid by the British government but working for the Ethiopian government security apparatus. The degree of intense involvement of those Western countries in the “internal affairs” of the Ethiopian State is unnecessary. The Cold War is over, there is not that much important strategic value in the Horn countries at this point. The United States, the only super power in the area, in a world moving toward economic cooperation rather than political confrontation is best served by a policy that emphasize the observance of human rights by friendly countries as a precondition of continued cooperation. This is the time for creative thinking and new approach to conflict resolution and the promotion of democracy.
B. The United States and the Making of National Security States (NSS)
National Security States are Third World states within the sphere of influence of the United States, led and controlled by military elites whose ideology combines elements of Nazism with pre-Enlightenment notions of hierarchy and inequality, and implement extreme violence such as torture, murder and disappearances as routine method of suppression of innocent citizens. [Herman, 3-5 (1982)]The current Ethiopian government is in the process of becoming such a client state. These states are the West’s version of satellite governments comparable to the client-states of the former Soviet Union of the Cold War period. “One nation’s lunatic fringe is another nation’s security police.” [Lelyveld, 172 (1985)]The sands of history has shifted, and instead of a progressive government committed to social justice and economic development, what we have now in Ethiopia is a dictatorial rightist government that subverts justice and deny human and political rights and is engaged in a bizarre economic policy. The situation is a far cry from the expectations of a number of Ethiopians who were patriotic enough to overlook most of the obvious shortcomings of the people who are in power now, when they marched in to Addis Ababa with nothing more than Kalashnikovs and a promise to remedy past abuses and corruption of power. Hoping that such people would have learned a valuable lesson from the atrocities committed by Mengistu Hailemariam, most Ethiopians accepted them with very limited reservations.
The US government has become a full partner in the creation of a totalitarian government in Ethiopia. Meles has transformed a liberation movement into a subversive anti-democratic rightist military structure. There were several examples where by the US government had agreed to transport military hardware worth millions to Ethiopia and Eritrea, a clear example of the imperialist expansion of US control and interference in the internal affairs of weak countries like Ethiopia. Ethiopia was earmarked to receive over a hundred million dollars in military aid from the US fiscal budget, making Ethiopia the largest military aid receiver in Sub-Saharan Africa (See The Washington Post, Sunday; Boston Globe, November 10, 1996). However, the war between Ethiopia and Eritrea in 1999-2000 derailed the program. In fact, the United States as member of the United Nations Security Council voted to put sanction against both Ethiopia and Eritrea for the import of weapons, which is still in force. Of course, the sanction was in reality aimed at Ethiopia. And the sanction had an asymmetrical effect by punishing the land locked country of Ethiopia more than Eritrea that has all the waterfront real estate to smuggle in weapons from surrounding friendly countries who had conspired and tried to destroy Ethiopia for centuries. Herein lies the immorality of the members of the Security Council of the United Nations. A similar body, The League of Nations, had put such sanction over fifty years ago against Ethiopia from acquiring weapons to defend itself from Fascist war of aggression in 1934-35.
One may argue there is no lack of military hardware in Ethiopia, after all the present government inherited billions of dollars worth of Russian military hardware (most of which quite obsolete and junk) from the previous Ethiopian government. The argument has a fallacy as the Ethiopian government found out on the ground that only a very limited number of systems were operational. Not only that but Israel also joined in the conspiracy by refusing to deliver Ethiopian fighter planes that were being repaired fully paid for seriously affecting the security and defense interest of Ethiopia. The United States tried at one point to create a mercenary-military in Ethiopia that will do its dirty job anywhere in Africa, which did not proceed far due to the Ethiopian-Eritrean conflict and later due to the September Eleven attack on the Unite States. Such effort was sophomoric. The better idea for the United States is to abandon its one sided ill advised hostility to Ethiopia and rethink the geopolitical situation as it is being played out by the oil concession of the richest oil fields in Africa (in the Sudan) to China, France, Pakistan, et cetera completely pushing out the United States and its allies. Ethiopia has the Blue Nile water and sovereign historical ownership rights in the same area that the United States ought to support, and ought to bolster both the military and economic capacity of Ethiopia.
What the US government has been doing so far was following was the “order” of its lobbyists and political “masters” who come in all kinds of guises. This is in line with what the United States government has been doing for over thirty years in the Middle East and in Africa – protecting the security of Israel at all cost, and the exploitation of the oil fields of Saudi Arabia and the diamond and gold mines of South Africa. [Do not misunderstand me here, I am not at all minimizing the struggle of the Jewish people for self-determination and survival. I am simply stating the facts as I see them. No one ought to doubt for a second that there is no greater power than the Jewish lobby that American politicians fear the most. It is most exhilarating to watch for a change those over inflated egos of Members the United States Congress and the Executive deflated and cowering in fear of a handful of people armed with nothing more than their moral strength, unity of purpose, and their money, of course.] [See J.J. Goldberg, 1996] By just observing the number of individual Jews who are leaders in education (Presidents of Harvard, Yale et cetera ), finance (Chairmen or Presidents of The World Bank, City Bank et cetera), and politics (House Representatives and Senators, Agency Directors, et cetera), it is obvious the type of power Jews have in the United States and by derivations in the World. How I wish we too could command such influence in the World. Wait a second, with the new political aggregation, we do have tremendous power too. The sad fact is that we do not have the leadership to use such new leverage to our advantage. Sadly, the opposite seems to be developing in Ethiopia that the Meles Government is negotiating with the Sudanese Government to give up even Ethiopian land. It should rather be negotiating with the United States to reshape the political geography of the region by balancing the undue incursion of China, Pakistan et cetera in East Africa.
In 1941 and after World War II, Ethiopia sought a new friend in the West other than Britain. After the restoration of the sovereignty of Ethiopians to lead their own government in the person of Emperor Haile Selassie [at least on paper, the Anglo-Ethiopian Treaty of 1944], the Ethiopian government sought the friendship of the United States with tremendous zeal and tenacity. The experience with the British military commanders in the Sudan where the Emperor was completely cut off from any military command of his own [Sbacchi, 213 (1989)] and on his return to Ethiopia in 1941, and his earlier ill treatment by the British government during the Emperor’s exile in England seem to have shaken the confidence of the Emperor in the British government and probably has made him the wiser as may be observed in his reservation to deal with the British once he secured the Ogaden and Eritrea under the full control of his imperial government.
“Haile Selassie’s determination to link Ethiopia with the United States was an outgrowth in part of his experience with Great Britain in the 1940s. Selassie [sic] wanted a patron who could be trusted not to interfere in Ethiopia’s internal affairs, contrary to British behavior. Given the fall of the European states from the great-power ranks, the Emperor was essentially left with two choices. He could either conclude a security arrangement with the United States or with the Soviet Union.” [Lefebvre, 67 (1991)]
Through out his long reign of over thirty years since his return to Ethiopia in 1941, the Emperor never recovered from the ill treatment and from the experience of the predatory effort of the British government to control Ethiopia in 1941-42. He never warmed to the British as much as he did to the Americans. For obvious reasons the Emperor was reluctant to start a relationship with the Soviet Union of a kind he had aspired for with the government of the United States. Even much later in 1976 and after, the British government did not treat fairly the Ethiopian Royal Family in exile in England, after Mengistu overthrew Haile Selassie. The current situation of the policy of Meles must look quite childish to the British government. Meles has modeled his government after the British government minus a formal establishment of a “monarchy,” and relies heavily on the British for aid and governmental policy initiation. The irony of it all is the fact that the British had reacquired what their predecessors lost in 1942 – the control of Ethiopia’s political development. Britain with its primitive social class structure and archaic parliamentary theatrics is the wrong model or partner for Ethiopia.
Although it is not very clear why the United State was interested in having a relationship with Ethiopia in 1941, however, for the period from 1942-1948 the reasons for mutually beneficial relationships became much clearer with the rise of Arab aspirations and nationalism, and the importance of Saudi Arabian oil fields. In addition, after the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, there was no doubt as to the strategic importance of Ethiopia for the security of Israel and the geopolitical strategic interest of the United States. Ethiopia abstained in 1947 at the United Nations General Assembly on the vote to establish the State of Israel, [Erlich, 135 (1994)] [Israel retaliated by abstaining in 1952 at the United Nations General Assembly voting on the federation of Eritrea with Ethiopia.] Nevertheless, Ethiopia was one of the first few countries that recognized the State of Israel soon after the creation of the Jewish state. Against the real possibility of tremendous backlash from the Arab states, especially Egypt, the Sudan and Saudi Arabia and Syria, Ethiopia went ahead and started diplomatic relations with Israel starting in 1952. Israel opened officially a consulate in Addis Ababa in 1956. [Erlich, 135 (1994)]
In Ethiopia, as is the case in most developing countries, foreign policies have been determined by personalities and elite group ideologies rather than on the basis of the national interest of Ethiopia based on institutions and political structures. [Erlich, 45 (1994)] Thus, there is a degree of disorganization and erratic formulations of foreign policy during that extremely trying period of Ethiopian history i.e., 1948 to 1973. The Emperor was caught on one hand by the fact of his black Africanness, therefore, a duty to implement a policy that would enhance his stature as a ‘Black’ leader of an emerging African Continent, however, on the other hand ancient and historic ties and conflicts with the surrounding Islamic countries demanded that the Emperor should strike a balance between the interests of his declared government of a Christian Ethiopia and the huge Ethiopian Moslem population. The same balancing of interest was also required and expected between his relationship with Arab nations and his relationship with Israel and the West. The Soviet Union with its seemingly radical ideology (but corrupt) was never far from the controversy. Ethiopia found itself because of its clear preference of the United States and Israel to a lesser extent as its friends as a target from within and without. Internal discontent within the many ethnic groups of Ethiopia because of the Emperors antiquated aristocratic government added real challenge to the independence and integrity of the state of Ethiopia. Later, we shall see why the Emperor’s decision to cut ties with Israel on 23 October 1973 was a shortsighted disastrous policy of recapitulation to Arab bullies such as Libya, Syria, Somalia et cetera that took Ethiopia down the path of national destruction and national implosion.
Although Ethiopia’s relation with the United States had a foothold in the Roosevelt administration, real political and economic relation as an aspect of United States’ policy in that part of the World emerged as of 1948 when the Truman administration decided that the security interest of the United States would be best served if Eritrea was merged with Ethiopia in some form of political and economic union. The United States supported and voted for the federation of Eritrea with Ethiopia in exchange for arrangement to continue using the military radio facility in Asmara. [Lefebvre, 66 (1991)] Initially the facility was made available on the invitation of the British to the Americans in 1941 into Eritrea “to investigate the colony’s possibilities as an assembly point and distribution center for lend-lease equipment.” [Marcus, 12 (1983)]
Ethiopia was handled until 1958 by the Near East Bureau (NEB) of the State Department of the United States. The fact that Ethiopia was handled at the State Department by a bureau in a process of building a case for United States involvement in Saudi Arabian oil fields was a real setback to Ethiopia where there was no comparable motivation for close business and trade relation. The bureaucrats in that Bureau were Arabists whose allegiance was reinforced and insured progressively as Saudi Arabia emerged as the oil bank of the West. The United States wrenched Saudi Arabia from the British in a very acrimonies business maneuvering. With the rise of the economic power of Saudi Arabia, the significance of Ethiopia as a civilization and a nation, with real economic and political development needs, was relegated to minor bureaucrats. With the coming into power of Mengistu Hailemariam and his brutal government, such marginalization of Ethiopia ultimately led to the unbridled influence of a handful of mid-level lawyers and bureaucrats, no better than a bunch of babbling pseudo-intellectuals, at the State Department. Those lower level bureaucrats overwhelmed the well thought-out traditional view that came down to the time of Bush I with maturity from the Roosevelt administration of respecting the long history of Ethiopia and its territorial integrity, which included the Ethiopian Afar Coastal territories, the territorial waters of the Red Sea and the present day “Eritrea.” The coming into power of the EPRDF was the ultimate seal on the fate of Ethiopia. We are now living in the shadow of our mistakes and the manipulation of our enemies.
Thus, despite the fact that Ethiopia had not been aggressive toward Arab countries since it lost its control in A.D. 630 of its trading post in the port of Shua’yba destroyed by the order of Mohammed the Prophet, and despite the alleged pronouncement of the Prophet to leave Ethiopians alone, Ethiopia had always been a target of Arab resentment and sabotage to this day. The latest being the dismemberment of Eritrea from Ethiopia through the machination of the governments of Arab countries whose main players were political leaders of Egypt, Syria, Iraq and Saudi Arabia and their watch dogs Sudanese and Somali leaders.
It is just as obvious that we cannot live our lives hoping for fair treatment while accommodating the whims of leaders of our neighbors and being totally marginalized and dependant on the good wills of others. Our greatest weakness comes from our government structure and lack of democratic institutions. That is where our focus should be. In this context, the result and not the actions of Haile Selassie and the diligent effort of his subordinates such as Ketema Yifru to form the OAU thereby protecting Ethiopia from the assault of leaders of Arab countries should be applauded as a real achievement of statesmanship, even if the Emperor negated all that effort in his twilight years by severing diplomatic relations with Israel. This will be seen as a contradiction on my part by people who are only capable of reading on a cursory level without understanding the depth or full picture of the discussion at hand. My support of the creation of the OAU as a strategic move by Ethiopia to counter the Arab effort to dominate the politics of Ethiopia must be seen independently from the decision to have the headquarters of the OAU and other international organizations housed in Addis Ababa. There is no contradiction between my two distinct views.
C. International Interference and Its Consequences
The dilemma faced by political activists from Third World countries, in reporting to the world the atrocities committed by a repressive Third World government, is that their appeal to the community of nations cuts both ways. It is very possible that Western governments, on hearing about the atrocities committed by governments of Third World countries on their own people, might look at the total picture and conclude that the entire people are brutal savages; in their eyes both victims and perpetrators are one and the same. In fact, these Western governments use the human tragedy in Third World countries to bolster their ego by announcing to their people and the rest of the world, through their media, how civilized and superior they are and how primitive the rest of the world is.
What is tragic in this is the fact that Third World people are sold on the idea that material development means being “modern”, or “civilized” in addition to achieving spiritual growth. Thus, the governments of these poor people are constantly trying to prove to a Western audience that they too are not ‘uncivilized’. What is forgotten in this type of self aggrandizement of government leaders is the fact that the dignity and humanity of individuals, whoever they are, is not dependent on the perception of Western leaders or on the satisfaction of standards or values set by Western Civilization. The dignity and humanity of every single individual in this World is not an item subject for valuation by this group or by that group. At any rate modernity or civilization are concepts even difficult for Westerners to define. [Laffey (1993)]
The United States and its allies, and the former Soviet Union have played a major role in the abortion of the possible creation of a true democratization process in Ethiopia at least on four occasions: (i) after the Italian occupation was smashed in 1941, (ii) the 1960 military coup d’etat attempt, (iii) the 1974 military takeover, and (iv) the 1991 takeover of the Ethiopian government by the EPRDF. If we examine the circumstances around these incidents, we can see a pattern of foreign interference in favor of despotic rulers and against possible structures that would have promoted the democratic and human rights of Ethiopian citizens.
(i) The 1941 Aborted Ethiopian Republic: After the retreat from Maichew, Emperor Haile Selassie left Ethiopia (Addis Ababa) on May 2, 1936 to Palestine (Jerusalem) which was under British rule. That was the first time in Ethiopian history an Ethiopian Emperor left his people and country in time of their greatest needs and in the face of an occupying enemy. Many of his men were not happy to see him leave his people without leadership. There were former members of his close circle of associates such as the great patriot Takele Woldehawariat, who helped him usurp the Ethiopian Throne from Lij Iyassu earlier in his career, who were forcefully opposed to Haile Selassie’s departure to Europe by way of Palestine. He spent his time in exile in England under reduced circumstances.
The Emperor returned to Ethiopia through the Sudan surrounded by British Soldiers, he was not readily welcomed by the patriots [Sbacchi, 213-214 (1989)] [Bekele, 38-42 (1993) ] who had fought the Italians for five years single handedly without his help and left to their own device. The Ethiopian patriots were on the verge of overrunning the Italians. The Ethiopians would have won the struggle in a matter of few months without any help by the British. Haile Selassie entered Addis Ababa on May 5 in 1941. It took him almost two years to consolidate his power and start taking independent actions. The patriots lead by Takele Woldehawariat were opposed to the reestablishment of a monarchy, and were pushing for a republican form of government, [Sbacchi, 213-214 (1989)] and there was also another faction of patriots who wanted to establish a constitutional monarchy with Ras Imru [Sbacchi, 220 (1989)] as their leader. However, Abebe Aregai and others, although they were not that much enthusiastic about the Emperor’s entourage returning with him from exile, were willing to accept his leadership provided they were rewarded with high government appointments. [Bekele, 41(1993)] In addition to this fracture within the patriots, the turncoat Rases and chiefs such as Ras Seyoum [Sbacchi, 220 (1989)] of Tygreai with his twenty thousand troop, Ras Hailu of Gojjam with his ten thousand troop, and Dejazmach Ayalew Biru with his seventeen thousand troop submitted quickly to Haile Selassie adding strength to his position and undermining the patriots who would have executed some of those turncoat leaders who had defected and had been instrumental in the destruction of many Ethiopians in the hands of the Italians. For Haile Selassie that was what he needed to balance the power of the patriots.
The British presence facilitated the quick mobilization of loyal patriotic leaders around Haile Selassie. There was also ethnic consideration even among the patriots in the decision whether to support Haile Selassie or seek another leader. Most of all a number of patriots seem to have been very weary of both the British and the Italians on the same category of enmity. There was an earning for normalization and consolidation to build a new future. The British did play the role of midwife in bringing forth Haile Selassie as a despotic ruler. For example, the British Royal Air Force conducted an atrocious air attack on the First Woyanie movement killing thousands of Ethiopians who were opposed to Haile Selassie’s rule. That was a direct interference in the internal affairs of a nation, and consequently Ethiopia lost a head-start opportunity to experiment with a republican form of government in 1941.
(ii) The 1960 Failed Coup D’Etat: One of the architects (or as claimed in his writings, an accomplice after the fact) [Bekele, 102-6 (1993)] of the 1960 coup attempt, Gaitachew Bekele, described the political situation and the reason for the coup attempt succinctly as follows:
“By 1960, every thinking man in Ethiopia was ready for the removal of the emperor. he had lost the confidence of the people when he fled the country during the Italian invasion. He had alienated the natural leaders of the various provinces and also those of the patriotic movement by ignoring them and appointing his own henchmen about him. He had lost the confidence of young progressive men in his administration because of the corruption he allowed to flourish. He was a weak leader kept in power only by the Imperial Guard.” [Bekele, 101(1993)]
It was assumed by that if the Imperial Guard with the support of his chief of security turned against him, the Emperor would be finished. Even though they did turn against him, yet the Emperor survived because of lack of coordination on the part of the coup planners, and the abortive activities of the American mission personnel in Addis Ababa and the American Military group in Asmara. Soon after a brief alleged “neutrality” posturing by Ambassador Arthur Richards, Lieutenant Colonels Wills Gary and W.H.Crosson and the Military Assistance Advisory Group (MAAG) led by Gen. Chester de Gavre, there was massive interference in coordinating the loyalist opposition to the coup attempt in both Addis Ababa and Asmara. The Americans were actively involved in coordinating the loyalist Ethiopian generals, commanders and aristocrats, including the extensive use of US military facilities and planes for the coordination effort against the newly declared government of Ethiopia. [Marcus, 116-149 (1995)].
It is understandable and explainable too for the United States Embassy officials to adopt the alleged claim of the initial neutrality of the American mission about the coup. It is to be recalled that the Emperor had tried a clumsy manipulation of pitting the United States against the former Soviet Union by signing a long-term low interest rate loan worth a hundred million dollar at his June 1959 official state visit to Moscow. That might explain the temporary reserve or ‘neutrality’ of the United States. [Lefebvre, 101 (1991)] However, it was rumored that the Americans were behind the coup and changed their tune later when they realized that the coup was fated to fail. From the early activities of the two Colonels, and the Ambassador’s permissive action of allowing the two military men to assume leading roles in communicating with the coup leaders and later with the loyalist group strongly suggest that the United States might have been behind the coup attempt.
Gaitachew Bekele as one of the coup leaders, explained his apprehension of the role being played out by the American and British missions at that point during the formation of the new Ethiopian government.
“I feared American intervention because the Americans, like the British, always support the status quo in their foreign policy, believing that the devil they know is better than the angel they do not know. It is for this reason their foreign policy has largely failed in corners of the world where corrupt regimes have existed. they have supported these corrupt regimes until to late. Those running the corrupt regimes have been able to gain Western support by characterizing any opposition as communist. The opposition all too often has turned to the East not for ideological reasons but because it has posed as the only force willing to support the struggle against corrupt regimes.” [Bekele, 103 (1993)]
(iii) The 1974 Revolution: Within the United States mission in Addis Ababa, there were diplomats who realized that the coup attempt of 1960 was not just the effort of few elite military officers. In fact, soon after the reestablishment of Haile Selassie’s government, W. D. Fisher, a perceptive and very competent diplomat for economic matters at the United States Embassy, wrote his assessment of the political and economic situation in Ethiopia. He stated that the coup reflected a degree of dissatisfaction by the population and that the Ethiopian government was not equipped to bring about required fundamental changes to stave off or undercut future military coups or revolutions. [Marcus, 175-176 (1995)]. The Ethiopian government continued to follow its archaic and anachronistic government antics and policy to the growing frustration of the professional class, the student body, and the general population. The growing population was immersed in poverty with no hope insight. Thus, was started for the next thirteen years incessant struggle of the Ethiopian people for economic and political empowerment.
Although the military leaders were popularly embraced, things changed after they massacred sixty former high government officials on the evening of November 23, 1974. From then on, the relationship between the military and the people of Ethiopia was down hill. The United States government had tried to contact the Derg leaders at the time the coup was underway, however, any contact with the United States mission was seen as the kiss of death; and it proved to be the case with Captain Sissay, a prominent Derg member and a reportedly rival and alternate leader to Mengistu himself, who was murdered in a palace coup allegedly by the order of Mengistu. There was complete rejection of the United States because it was identified as the imperialist master of the Emperor and his government. The former Soviet Union and China were the new friendly stars that both the military leaders and the civilian elites had turned their attentions to for possible cooperation and assistance. It is also a fact that the civilian elite leaders had a preexisting contact and friendship as well as sponsorships from these two countries.
The problem within the left oriented intelligentsia erupted and took an ugly turn. Those who favored Chinese rendition of Marxism came to be known as Meison, and those who favored that of the former Soviet Union’s version came to be known as EPRP. The conflict between the two camps of intellectuals allowed Mengistu, who stile is an illiterate and under disciplined ersatz man, a chance to liquidate his competition within the Derg and later the intellectuals, and came out the leader of a new communist Ethiopian government in 1976. For the next 15 years, Ethiopia suffered unheard of brutality under the government of Mengistu until the day he run out of the country in May of 1991. It is impossible to describe the degree of violence and brutality that Mengistu and his thugs and ruffians unleashed against tens of thousands of Ethiopians. They murdered and tortured people without rhyme or reason, they simply acted like mad dogs racking havoc on defenseless Ethiopians from all walks of life.
(iv) The 1991 EPRDF Takeover: There is not much dispute on how the EPRDF came into town. One of the reasons I wrote this essay is to deal with the problem Ethiopia is faced with because of EPRDF’s exclusive assumption of power and the blind support of the United States and other Western countries to such a regime. The West seems to be playing unnecessary power game in Ethiopia with what is objectively perceived by a number of Ethiopians as a local struggle between the elitist and despotic government of Meles and the rag tag opposition made up of mass organizations including labor or trade unions, which power struggle should have been left alone.
However, from the point of view of the political leadership in such Western nations, Ethiopia has no significant role to play in the domestic power acquisition strategies of American or European leaders. Thus, for example, in the United States government structure, matters that concern Ethiopia were handled by technocrats and not by politicians. “To an extent not found in certain other areas of U.S. foreign policy, the formulation of American policy toward the Horn of Africa has been left largely in the hands of the permanent bureaucracy of the U.S. government.” [Lefebvre, 22 (1991)]. One good explanation or the reason for the type of low level engagement is the poor economy of Ethiopia itself. This is also the most significant fact why it has become an uphill struggle to influence the Bush and Clinton administrations to change from their support of Meles and his government to allowing a degree of reservation. Simply put, there is no political reward or urgency or pitfall, which would influence any United States leader to put pressure on Meles.
Representative Harry Johnston, former Chairman and senior member of the Congressional Sub-Committee on Africa, traveled to Ethiopia to get a first-hand look on what had been happening in the running of the Ethiopian government by the EPRDF. On October 5, 1995, his interview with the Radio Voice of America (VOA) was quite sensational. He stated that the government of Meles has not changed at all in its repression of human and democratic rights. He stated also that there were more political prisoners in Ethiopia compared to the number of political prisoners in the whole of Sub-Saharan countries. Representative Lee introduced an amendment that linked improvement of human rights to US aid to Ethiopia, which infuriated the Ethiopian government to the point that Meles refused to see Johnston during Johnston’s visit. There is no apparent political reward for these two upright conscientious citizens except, may be, the satisfaction of doing the proper thing by their fellow human beings.
The problem of perpetuating the Government of Meles was started when the United States sent as a consultant, Samuel P. Huntington, as part of the USAID delegation in 1993, to evaluate and recommend the kind of political structure appropriate for Ethiopia. [Huntington, Report (1993)] [Tecola, 125-143 (1994)] That choice of consultant was a total disaster for Ethiopians. Former President Jimmy Carter has to be criticized in this since he was involved in giving legitimacy to the activities of the government of Meles; he is also partially responsible for the role played by Huntington, whom he had appointed to the NSA during his own Presidency, in this fateful relationship with the new Ethiopian leaders. Huntington played a very significant role in aborting the democratic process that millions of Ethiopians were ready to participate in, and helped create the puppet right-wing dictatorial government of Meles Zenawi. He made several trips to Ethiopia in 1993 and in 1994 advising both high government officials and the Constitution Drafting Commission. The profile of Huntington, as described by some of Harvard’s own Alumni, in the exceptionally incisive and perceptive essays compiled by very gifted men and women, is a frightening and sobering one indeed. [Trumpour, ed. (1989)]
It seems that Huntington, although a ‘democrat’ by party affiliation, has been on the extreme right (of even the die-hard republican conservatives) in his views on international relations and the process of social changes. “Huntington’s political science became so shackled to the immediate needs of the national security of the state that many liberals found the distinction between the state and the academy obliterated.” [Trumpour, ed. 108 (1989)] Huntington seems to have supported right wing fascistic policies in his writings and in the choice of governments he consulted including the South African government. His support of the Apartheid system and for right-wing authoritarian rule is clearly spelled out in his presentation (paper) in South Africa in which he considered the abstract proposition that the narrowing of the scope of political participation may be indispensable to eventually increased participation. [Lelyveld, 68-9]In other words, what Huntington was promoting in South Africa in 1985, with unbelievable insensitivity at a time when the world community was putting pressure on the South African government trying to remedy the horror of the apartheid system, was the idea that an increased authoritarianism was necessary to bring about power devolution to citizens.
Huntington’s involvement with the CIA (in violation of Harvard’s policy) which revelation created a scandal at Harvard in 1985-6 is another dimension to the man’s personality. [Trumpour, ed., 37, 76 (1989)] For example, it is alleged that due to his involvement in the Vietnam War that “Huntington’s ‘forced urbanization’ concept legitimized a level of bombing unparalleled in human history advocating (14 million tones of explosive dropped on tiny Vietnam, compared to 2.5 million tons used by the United States in all of World War II. One out of 30 people in all of Indochina ended up dead; nearly three million of those killed were Vietnamese); yet he received a top level appointment at NSA by Carter and is currently received with fawning admiration by starry-eyed graduates and undergraduates at Harvard’s Department of Government.” [Trumpour, ed., 78-9 (1989)]
It seems some professors from Harvard have been involved in giving Machiavellian advice to United States Presidents, and at times were even appointed as head of government organs. Two powerful individuals who stand out in recent memory for their questionable advice as well as for their personal imprint in the shaping of the foreign relations of the United States were James Conant, former President of Harvard, and Henry Kissinger, former professor at Harvard. James Conant was a member of the Interim Committee during the Second World War. He advised President Truman on how and why the atomic bomb should be dropped on Japan targeting a large civilian population, which was done to the destruction of over three hundred thousand Japanese civilians. [Robert Jay Lifton and Eric Markusen, 21-4 (1990)] [Zinn, 95 (199 )] “Though understandably regarded as Conant the barbarian throughout much of the world, he received a thunderous reception at Harvard return during the 1946 commencement exercises.” [Trumpour, 62 (1989)]
Moreover, Henry Kissinger, who served as Secretary of State (1973-77), was no less than a one-man Department of State who totally dominated the foreign policy of the United States in the 1970s. His advice of military build-up and the scuttling of SALT II [Trumpour, 79 (1989)] would have ended in disastrous situation if not for more restrained successors. Even more disturbing was Kissinger’s contemptuous disregard of Third World people and blacks in America. His presumptuous and disparaging statement about the democratic election in Chile that brought into power Allende is one other example of his brutish drive for imperialist domination. Rather than negotiate a political dispute, he preferred and advised the use of brut force on those whom he knows before hand to be powerless. [“Kissinger Urged Ban on TV Reports,” New York Times, 5 March 1988, 5] Kissinger is the quintessential warmonger. [Kissinger, 1994] The above two named were the super stars of the use of raw power/force and essentially anti-democratic means to solve political issues; and lesser characters include people like Huntington and Joseph Smith. It is in his tern of office that Ethiopia started losing its clout and significance in the eyes of the United States.
Joseph Smith, a Harvard professor with a fanatical zeal against progressive ideas, after having been appointed to the newly formed CIA was the individual most responsible for the counter offensive against the popular Filipino movement which was struggling to reform the intolerable land holding system that had caused tremendous suffering in the Philippines after the end of the War. It is to be recalled that during the war with Japanese occupiers the peasants overwhelmingly supported a nationalist movement called Huks. The US considered this nationalist movement as an arm of the communist world movement even though both were fighting a common enemy – the Japanese. The elite and rich land owners sided with the Japanese against both the US and the Filipino peasants. However, after the defeat of Japan, the US government through its CIA functionary, Joseph Smith, and its genocidal military generals turned its military might against the Filipino nationalist movement destroying all chances of reform and political development. The US first created and trained a Filipino military force and supported a series of corrupt and vicious regimes of military strongmen, the last of whom was Ferdinand Marcos, probably the most corrupt of them all, for almost thirty years until his humiliating fall. The same hostile attitude to all nationalist groups in Ethiopia is a fact of United States government policy in Ethiopia.
Huntington is just the tail end of this destructive monster lurking in the Harvard Yard with its numerous tentacles spread all over the world. Whether it is dealing with issues on rural education, medical system, or economic development and foreign aid et cetera, this Harvard monster has one or more of its tentacles manipulating and subverting the efforts of humble and poor people in places like Ethiopia. The method used by Huntington and his likes on emerging democracies is that of the Bolsheviks – penetrating a group and destroying it from the inside rather than allowing the people from working through a democratic political process to achieve both economic and political autonomy. What makes these individuals formidable to counter is the fact that they are insulated by the prestige and privilege of the institution they work for through out the world. This is not to generalize that the entire Harvard faculty is involved in such diabolical activities. As a matter of fact, Harvard is blessed too by outstanding scholars and experts with a heart of gold whose humanity and concern for their fellow man transcend “civilizations,” ethnicity, and national origins. Scholars and giants in their respective fields, Harvard professors, such as Henry Steiner, Stephen Gould (Deceased), Charles Ogletree, John Rawls (Deceased), Laurence Tribe et cetera whose concern for universal individual human rights is an inspiration for people of all backgrounds. No one disputes the social concerns and genuine effort of many other professors at Harvard.
In the case of Huntington and his relationship with the Ethiopian government, it was impossible to counter Huntington’s advice with any degree of success. Huntington’s advice can appeal to the baseness that lurks in all of us – the desire to dominate and to acquire unchecked power. For those of us who presented a case for participatory democracy it was an uphill fight to convince the leadership of EPRDF that Huntington’s advice was not much different or better than what Mengistu tried to do, and that it was an idea if implemented would lead to fascism. For Meles, it was the one important piece in his Byzantine manipulative effort that helped his dictatorial tendencies to revel itself dressed in respectability backed by the views of a ‘Harvard’ professor, which view ultimately was adopted and led to the creation of the current rightist military dictatorship of Meles.
Generally speaking, there seems to be a pervasive and contemptuous disregard of ordinary people, and more so of Third World people, by experts from American Universities, so much so that I believe we are better off not accepting any of the advisers who are sent to us leashed to foreign aid from the United States or from anywhere else. It has become quite fashionable for politicians to beat-up on new immigrants, or so called illegal aliens, or on the financial aid program to poor foreign governments whenever there is even a slight downturn in the economy of the United States. [Those illegal aliens from South of the border are the grandsons and granddaughters of people whose land (California, New Mexico) had been taken by the United States government, and pushed off violently from their historic place of birth.] The alien bashing here or else where is absolutely wrong and sends the wrong message to the rest of the world. I think a large number of United States or British citizens are decent and hard working individuals. The meddlers and the creators of false crisis and hatred are a few selfish and hateful and overrated individuals in academia and government service elected or otherwise.
The United States AID office in collaboration with the World Bank has continued to finance projects on piecemeal basis in Ethiopia. None of these individuals or agencies are directly accountable on their activities neither to the people of the United States nor to the people of Ethiopia. They are episodic as well as opportunistic agents (occurrences).
“The tragedy of U.S. diplomacy is that these few who have done so much to shape the world’s destiny are rarely held accountable. Such a condition fosters what Richard Barnet terms the ‘myth of mass guilt which denies the connection between power and responsibility and proclaims the American people as a whole are all equally responsible’ for a foreign policy of manifest peril to global survival.” [Trumpour, 79 (1989)]
The worst the United States Government has done to Ethiopia is its relentless pursuit to dismantle our ancient country. It has done everything it could to destroy Ethiopia from supporting the secession of Eritrea to the land locking of seventy million Ethiopians denying them their natural and historical coastal territories and territorial waters of the Red Sea. Ethiopia has no worse enemy than the Government of the United States. Ethiopians should wake up to that fact and take the necessary step to insure the continued existence of Ethiopia even if it means cutting all relationship with the United States. As the saying goes, you do not know people until you live with them.
The most corruption of the Constitution of the United States occurred during the Bush II (2000-4) administration during the second Gulf war, with the White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales whose memorandum justifying torture and blatant disregard of the Geneva Convention lead to tremendous brutality on prisoners and civilians. Here you have the son of immigrant workers, who attended Harvard Law School made possible by the struggle of generations of courageous people who fought for the dignity and human rights of people like Gonzales, turn around and undermine the very values that guaranteed his human dignity and thereby the privilege to attend a school he would never even dream of visiting let alone attend. Gonzales is used by the conservative possibly racist group to undermine principles that took thousands of years to develop. The drafting of the PATRIOT Act by another minority member, this time from South East Asia, was another setback to human liberties.
The new Ethiopian government is totally dependant on the United States, Britain, and Israel. The anti-democratic nature of the government of Meles is a well-established fact supported by numerous recorded abuses and violation of human rights of Ethiopians all over Ethiopia. If we just read the reports of none Ethiopian sources, even sources friendly to the Ethiopian leaders in power since 1991, we are faced with reports of blatant human rights abuses, extra judicial executions, lengthy detention, torture and degrading treatment of citizens by military and government officials through out the nation. Every single day, we hear the cries of mothers and wives of Ethiopians murdered by agents of the government of Meles all over Ethiopia. The types of atrocities committed by Meles is becoming as brutal and as hideous as those committed by Mengistu. The number of victims has steadily increased since 1992.
Are all these reports of terrible things happening to Ethiopian citizens a true record of what is actually happening in Ethiopia? Why would anyone, especially none Ethiopian organizations, be interested in reporting something that would undermine the current Ethiopian government? There is no conspiracy against the new Ethiopian leaders; if at all, the world was supportive of their struggle as liberation movement. They must have done terrible things for peoples’ feeling to sour this much at this point in time. Individual actions of the military officers and their men in from all administrative regions is fully ascribable as the responsibility of the leadership of the Ethiopian central government. Every official in the current Ethiopian Government, including those who are representatives from the Administrative Regions, are individually and collectively responsible for every action of human rights abuse of Ethiopian citizens every where in Ethiopia by officials and agents of the Ethiopian government.
D. Coup d’Etat – the Fate of Fascism and Rightist Governments
There are very many disturbing characteristics of a badly run government on the brink of a coup d’etat that can be identified in the present government of Ethiopia. The Government of Meles is solely kept in power by the military structure. This is a very dangerous situation. A coup does not require mass mobilization nor the participation of the military as a whole or group. A coup can occur with minimal external disturbance with no manifest symptom and could be mistaken for a purely administrative reorganization. In reality a change of personality and the replacement of heads of government organs may be taking place inconspicuously. Such an occurrence will only prolong the date of the true revolution that is much needed to start a fresh break from past despotism. “A coup consists of the infiltration of a small but critical segment of the state apparatus, which is then used to displace the government from its control of the remainder.” [Luttwak, 27 (1979)]
Most African governments were toppled by military coups after their independence, and in a number of African countries, multiple coups had occurred as regularly as democratic governments elsewhere in the world changed hands between elected officials. The case of Nigeria is illustrative of this fact. This trend, which started in the late 1950s, had claimed the lives of some of Africa’s best and brightest. Africa is still racked with inapt rulers and opportunistic elites. The demoralized people of such African nations are not in any position to challenge their leaders and the entrenched elites in any meaningful manner in order to bring about democratic change in the near future. Aids, a new incurable illness, which some assert is deliberately introduced into Africa by the West, has decimated population centers in the Congo, Ethiopia, South Africa, Uganda, et cetera, in the last one decade. Added to all these problems is the catastrophe of overpopulation looming just around the corner. [Bauer, 42-65, (1981)] For some countries such as Burundi, Egypt, Ethiopia, Nigeria, and Rwanda, that nightmare has already arrived. This is a very serious problem that has added to the misery and destruction of Africans. However, there are some irresponsible scholars who do not see the tragic consequences of overpopulation in under developed nations.
The political trend now in a number of African countries is a reversion to the formation of elite-dominated political structures of the 1950s and 1960s pre-military coups period, a period just after independence. The trend might have long duration compared to the many short lived governments of African nations. The fact that there is only one super power in the world, and the fact that this super power does not seem to be that keen to support individual rights in struggling African countries has lead me to believe that African governments are going to become more and more oppressive and conservative. One form of conservatism that would have devastating effect on African political processes is ethnic conflict. The Ethiopian experiment of ethnic based political philosophy of government is not a popular one among most African leaders. The neighboring countries of Somalia and the Sudan are good examples of the excesses of ethnic or clan based politics. The devastation suffered by the Darfur people is the latest example of ethnic hate and the subsequent genocide of hundreds of thousands of people. There are numerous ethnic conflicts simply stewing in Nigeria, Sudan, Uganda, Ethiopia, Kenya, South Africa and many others, which seems to be gaining some momentum. It is only a question of time, a few years on the outside, when matters will be making terrible turns.
Other than the possibility of a palace type coup toppling the current Ethiopian government, there are no viable liberation movements fighting against the government of Meles in any part of the country. The right of a people to fight against a colonial power is not in dispute, although there may be a problem as to the meaning of a “colonial” group, for example, where the colonial group has evolved into an independent body from its parent country and has established a government of its own. The case of South Africa is a good example to consider in this regard. Should the English and Dutch settlers, some of whom date back to the Sixteenth Century, be required to give back the land they took by force or deception from the Zulus and other indigenous people? The subject is quite problematic. The present day Zimbabwe started out as a breakaway colony of Britain called Rhodesia that declared its independence from the colonial parent country – Britain. It is internationally accepted that there is a right to fight a colonial power. However, the real interesting issue is the way the nations of the world responded in the past to liberation struggles within a state, for example like the struggles of the Irish, Chechen, Eritrean, Oromo, Punjab (Sikh), Kashmir and other similarly motivated struggles and disputes.
The United States’ response towards such internal liberation struggles is just as confused as those of other nations. There are instances where internal struggles of a particular persuasion, not necessarily democratic or communistic, was supported by either the United States or the Soviet Union based on the geopolitical placement of the struggle. A classic example of the preeminence of geopolitics over everything else is graphically displayed on how the United States and the Soviet Union exchanged in 1977 their two client states, the case of Ethiopia and Somalia. [Keller, 204-6 (1991)]There are scholars who believe that the United States should premise its decision to support or not to support an internal liberation struggle on the fact whether there are other recourse available to the people who orchestrated the liberation struggle than the use of force to achieve such goals. [Scheffer with Small, 79] This approach would not be of much use in real politick. Political struggle uses inherently violent methods to incapacitate or destroy an opponent even in the democratic West. All one has to do is review the types of negative campaign advertisements employed against opponents almost religiously by most candidates in Western elections.
Moreover, the arms supplied by the United States and the former Soviet Union are the arsenal that had entrenched unpopular and despotic governments in power in the past. For Ethiopia alone, the former Soviet Union supplied Mengistu’s government between 1977 to 1988 with military hard ware valued at approximately ten billion dollars. [Keller, 204-207(1994)] [Lefebvre, 33 (1991)] The United States supplied Somalia with military ware of about a billion dollars worth in seven years period from 1982-1989. [Lefebvre, 241 (1991)] The major suppliers of weapons to brutal dictators in Third World countries are Western countries and the former Soviet Union with China a distant third but catching up with speed. If we consider the amount of military aid supplied to Third World countries as opposed to other developmental assistance, we can see the reason for the chronic under development of Third World nations. Of course, the West alone is not to be held responsible for such kinds of problems of under development, the leadership of those Third World nations must bear the primary responsibility for all the problems facing Third World countries. May be the West could be seen as morally responsible for the types of under development chronic to Third World countries.
Although this is not an essay on the definition or characteristics of what a nation is or consists of, it is helpful to note here certain aspects of a nation in order to understand the nihilistic political program of the current Ethiopian government. At times, the reality of nationhood, i.e., as a creature of international law and political abstraction, may not reflect the reality at ground level. The coercive nature of the power structure of a nation does easily blur legitimate unique features within the political abstraction of a nation and the reality of the separate existence of groups from the dominant group in power. Such reality does not of itself automatically be used as a justification for a deliberate fracturing of an existing nation because such symptom may be a reflection of a legitimate process of evolutionary or revolutionary development to a higher form of political and economic structure. The issue here is also of the blurred distinction of nationhood and nationalism. The later is a state of mind as opposed to the first, which is an existential and historical reality formalized by international law regime of recognition, and power structure. “Nations exist because of the sensitivity of human beings to the primordial facts of decent and territorial location.” [Shils, 100 (1995).]
Shared experiences, even those experiences that are a result of outside interferences on local groups, positively deepen and strengthen the bond between individuals and across communities. Although, scholars such as Shils see such transformations as positive and natural to all social developments there are others who question the positive nature of nationalism. For example, Joseph H. Berke, a physician and psychotherapist, who had studied the connection between individual feeling of malice and national characteristics (nationalism) stated as follows:
“Nationalism is not the expression of a loving devotion to national interests or the well-deserved respect that comes from collective accomplishments. On the contrary, it conveys fanatical patriotism: mass identification with narrow, excessive, unreasoning, boastful beliefs in the right and might of one’s country over all. Nationalism is to the state what narcissism is to the individual. It is a form of national narcissism, the expression of a perverted or pathological self-absorption and pride.” [Berke,257-8(1988)]
Berke has a point as quoted above, and as such similar characteristics can be easily observed in the activities of nationalist leaders in the Ethiopian political scene. The political programs of liberation movements such as the EPLF, OLF, TPLF and others that had incorporated the idea of secession as a political right seem to be an expression of the type of negative nationalism as described by Berke. In fact, in the last ten years it has become exceedingly clear that almost all claims of secession are patently regressive and promote the creation of elite controlled rightist or despotic governments. Similar phenomenon is to be witnessed in the coming into power of right wing politicians in the new East European countries. Such disappointing development may be the dialectical outcome of under development or absence of a large and well-established middle class (or both) in all those communities.
[*Some of the ideas and analysis in this section XI. (International Dimension of Freedom and Independence) has been taken from an unpublished two volume manuscript by Tecola W. Hagos, PHILOSOPHY OF RIGHTS: ETHIOPIA, Vol. 2, 2004.]
XII. Ethiopian Leadership and the Test of the Future
A. At Your Own Peril
For those who could only imagine Ethiopia through their own eyes as future leaders of Ethiopia, I would caution that they should rethink their ideology, modus operandi, ethics, and relationships with Ethiopians as individuals and as members of society. Political leadership in Ethiopia is a very dangerous occupation. In the remote past, even Emperors had suffered horrible deaths, for example, Emperor ZeDingle [14 October 1604] having lost a battle to a rebellious Commander was captured, his eyes torn out, his hands cut off, and his body turned into a mesh trampled upon by thousands of soldiers on horses. Even Queens were not spared horrible torture and executions, as was the execution of Emperor Zera Yaqob’s Queen and sons on suspicion of conspiracy.
Closer to our own time, I have heard first hand accounts from some prisoners and prison guards who buried the tattered bullet riddled bodies of sixty one detainees almost all of whom High Ethiopian Government Officials including two Prime Ministers, a Grandson of Emperor Haile Selassie, Ministers et cetera in mass grave filled up with salt and lime. Those high officials were murdered by the order of the Derg on 24-25 November 1974 by high caliber automatic weapons, in some cases their bodies blasted to pieces beyond recognition. We have heard about how the sick old Emperor Haile Selassie was smothered with a pillow socked with ether. I need not remind people the fate of some of the officials of Mengistu who are rotting in prison. Maybe we say that they got what they deserved, but then every administration had felt that way about the one it replaced. I suppose Meles and his officials are facing the same fate if they are thrown out of office by force or by the ballot. One ought to think hard before getting into such hazardous job of being a leader of Ethiopia.
[For having called a boycott by all Ethiopian Government employees and for demanding for the immediate establishment of a civilian transitional Ethiopian government, I was in detention along my Committee Members on the same prison ground in Alem Bekagn where the High Officials were murdered. We demanded naively that the Military Junta (the Derg) that was put in place earlier in September of 1974 share political power in a democratic structure.]
B. What is to be done
We may need to look into ways and methods in order to start a new way of looking at Ethiopia’s political and economic system. We have to devise a new constitution focusing on the fundamental rights of individual Ethiopians without making any form of concession to any other interests. In other words, we use the ideas of John Rawls of drawing constitutional principles under the “veil of ignorance” not taking into account our ethnic identity, status, education, et cetera. The problem with all past Ethiopian constitutions is the fact that they were designed to maintain the political and economic interest of a historic class (the Monarchy and the nobles), the bourgeoisie (the military, the elite, business), or ethnic enclaves (liberation fronts). In other words, the fundamental human and political rights of individual Ethiopians fit into the picture distorted by such prisms of interests that break down the unifying light of rights.
We need not be geniuses to see the effect of having constitutions that promoted group or class interests. Under such constitutions, the individual Ethiopian is pushed aside resulting in a highly dissatisfied and contentious population. Ethiopians from all walks of life must be made to feel and participate in their individual lives as significant members in the political and economic life of Ethiopia. The damage inflicted in the last thirteen years under the ethnic based political program of the EPRDF has resulted in fracturing Ethiopia far more than any other political period except may be the period of the mesafintes 1768-1855. The type of hate against Tygreans instigated by the group who lost power since the time of Mengistu may not be easily solved.
In the next Ethiopian political phase, it is probable that Meles will be replaced by someone from the former EPDM founding members. Such move would trigger a chain reaction leading back to square one, to a period of resistance movements by a reconstituted TPLF and other liberation movements. From then on, Ethiopia is going to be in a free fall, a decent into the bottomless pit of civil strife and suffering. By drawing such a bleak picture of the future of Ethiopia, am I advocating for the continued dictatorship of Meles Zenawi? Not at all, I have always considered Meles as a polarizing factor, insignificant on his own, but a destructive catalyst for disaster by his mere continued presence in the political and economic life of Ethiopia. The first move is to remove him from power.
The reelection of George Bush is a disaster for Ethiopia unless handled with objectivity, care, and conviction. Since the ideologues of Bush’s inner circle and those at the Defense Department are going to have a free hand in shaping the foreign policy of the United States without the restraint of the moral and practical wisdom of Colin Powell who has resigned as Secretary of State, Ethiopia is in for some rough treatment. Of course, Meles will be in a position to continue his treasonous activities furthering the land locking of Ethiopia by accepting the corrupt and illegal decision of the Boundary Commission. The designated Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, is not someone in whom I have confidence that Ethiopia will benefit during her watch. She seems to be a creation of an interest group quite contemptuous and adverse to foreigners. Without the moral authority to generate confidence in her treatment of poor people, she will be perceived, at least for the near future, as someone with narrow views reflecting and blindly accommodating the esoteric and simplistic views of the President.
Without a real leader at the State Department, the enemies of Ethiopia are going to have a field day. There is now no one like Powell, who earned his stars fighting his way through the trenches of Vietnam and overcoming numerous trapdoors in his career in government service, in the Bush administration to balance out those extremely aggressive and hateful bureaucrats who have caused so much harm to Ethiopia. There is no restraint either on an increasingly belligerent President due to his lack of diplomatic acumen and his shallow knowledge and understanding of the ways of different nations and their history, as is amply demonstrated day by day, in his disastrous decision in regard to the war against the people of Iraq, disguised as a mission to bring about “democracy” from the outside.
In a few months, Ethiopians will be going to the polls to elect their representatives and indirectly, their political officials. I do not foresee much change, and the same characters will be back allover again further devastating the nation. I would as easily point out that people should boycott the election since the outcome is already known, however, I caution against such action. No matter how corrupt the election process is going to be, the best offence is to participate in the election exercise and let the world see how the current leaders have subverted the election process. The best way to deal with such corrupt a government is to give it more rope to hang itself. The current leaders are corrupted beyond any salvation not only due to their political work but also due to their control of hundreds of millions of dollars of ethnic based wealth of “non-profit” organizations. The problem now facing the Palestinians with Arafat’s billions of dollars stashed in banks and investments around the World is a warning example for things to come in the Ethiopian setting with the current leaders of different liberation fronts and political organizations especially that of the TPLF.
This is an opportunity for the United States Government to overhaul its policy toward Ethiopia. Despite repeated famine, brutal government suppression, and disastrous economic programs, Ethiopia is the one country that had survived through out history as a nation surrounded by fractured communities and failed states. The test of “hegemony” to determine whether a nation was in control of its several parts over a period of time, was copied from Gramsci’s Marxist (Communist) writings, by individuals at the State Department with a shallow understanding of the dynamics of Ethiopian history. Under the “hegemony” test, neither the United States nor Canada, for example, could be considered states or countries. At any rate, the whole aim of the improvised perception of Ethiopian history by those low-level technocrats at the State Department, was to create an artificial state out of contested Italian colonial occupation of Ethiopian territories of Akale Guzai, Afar, Hamasien, Kunama, Serie et cetera that would fail the same hegemonic test applied to Ethiopia. The implication of such policy change resulted in the secession of Eritrea. The aim was to make Ethiopia dependant for its access to its own coastal territories now designated part of the new State of Eritrea in exchange for free access to Ethiopia’s large market and resources with the idea of creating a kind of an African Hong Kong. Such a plan could only be incubated by demented minds who have no respect for the history of a people and international law and relations.
John Byrely and group, are specific examples of minor officials at the State Department, whose political and life experiences in no way should have given them such degree of influence in creating such a political debacle in East Africa. They were left on their own to deal with the problems facing Ethiopia, the most ancient nation on earth. It seems no one of seniority was supervising what those low-level young careerist-climbers were doing because the big guns were engaged elsewhere. The result was a disastrous foreign policy in that part of Africa. The book by Herman Cohen, a former official at the State Department, Bureau of African Affairs, is quite revealing if one is capable of reading between the lines in an otherwise self-serving essay, justifying numerous errors of political and commonsense judgments. [Cohen, (2000)] Contrary to its pretentious title, the intervention and study of diplomacy Cohen is writing about, seems to be nothing more than the documentation of self-confessed selling-out of old partners for more ‘sexy’ but foolish change of partners. It shows changes from that of subtlety, wisdom, and deliberation to that of being swept by leaders of liberation fronts in army-surplus, often not much better than street thugs in Washington DC streets. From the 1970s to date, the policy or attitude of the United States Government toward that part of Africa, especially toward Ethiopia, seems to reflect a underlying scorn, disrespect and crudeness. [See Tecola W. Hagos, “International Deceit to Destroy Ethiopia: The New Patriotic Ethiopians and the Birth of the New Ethiopia,” Boston Conference, 9 March 2002 (reposted in Websites including this one)]
The reality on the ground is the fact that China, Pakistan, and France are now introduced into the area by way of Sudan oil fields. Eritrea is in grim political and economic situation. As a matter of careful observation of the situation unfolding in Afeworki’s government, and considering the recent alleged report of assassination attempt of Afeworki, Eritrea is heading into a civil war between highlanders and lowlanders, two large political and religious blocks. The lowlanders, sooner than later, would move to join the new oil rich Islamic nation of Sudan. It is inevitable the interest of such a group would be a challenge to the United States that had marginalized the one country that would have been its strongest piece in its political chess game with incoming political and economic powers such as China, Pakistan, and France. The situation would turn even more adverse to the United States when Saudi Arabia undergoes its own political exorcisms by ejecting the United States. Ethiopia has a long-standing Christian culture that had existed for over a thousand years by allowing religious freedoms to other religions such as Islam. For the United States, there is no other natural friend more suited for its political and economic interest in the area than Ethiopia.
It is time that the United States Government brings in seasoned political scientists, historians, and wise futurists to asses its policy toward Ethiopia. In order to carry out such enlightened change of policy, the President and his Secretary of State must completely clear out the entrenched bureaucrats who had caused all the mess surrounding the secession of Eritrea, the designing of the Algiers Agreement, and the Boundary Commission. As a matter of national security, economic security, and political sound policy, the United States Government must agree to side with Ethiopia to dissolve the corrupt decision of the Commission and start to reintegrate Ethiopia’s alienated territories back into Ethiopia under a new responsive and democratic government.
XIII. Miscellaneous | Conclusion
All those who use their education to diminish and dehumanize those Ethiopians with less “formal” education, who are no less intelligent nor any less patriotic than any of my critics, ought to be ashamed of their outrageous insults that refers directly or through innuendos to one’s credentials. I hold with contempt those who expect respect as an entitlement from everyone not because of their humanity or achievements, but because of their age, pedigree, wealth, or worse because of their credentials. I see, especially in Websites run by Ethiopians, an inordinate degree of groveling and solicitousness for credentials. Credentials are used as some form of weapon to censor and discourage ideas from “un-credentialed” Ethiopians. Academic credentials such as S.J.D, Ph.D, J.D, M.Sc., M.A, et cetera have substituted for the feudal titles of Ras, Dejazmatch, Greazmatch et cetera. I found this to be true more with older generations of educated Ethiopians whose lives was molded in the furnace of rigid formalism and hierarchy than younger generations of Ethiopian elites who have less need for such recognition and command of respect.
I have read articles, chat statements et cetera against me or other authors where the focus was on our person (us) rather than on the merit of the statements we had made. It is particularly disappointing to observe that such cowards, who could not even stand up in the open against a single individual like me whose only weapon is a pen or a pencil or a computer keyboard, fantasizing how they will lead Ethiopia! The contents of the statements made by such cowards are additional examples how some Ethiopians are still traumatized by their experience growing up in Ethiopia. There is a world of difference between criticism and ad hominem statement. I suppose the assumed superiority of intellect over experience because of the largeness of ones “timtim” is accepted in certain circle; however, it does not cut it with me and several other Ethiopians who start out with the conviction that every single human being is endowed with tremendous abilities in social skills, abstract thinking, and analytical proficiency no less respectable or profound than that of the next person. To think otherwise is a tragic way of looking at the valuable contribution of our Ethiopian brothers and sisters or anyone else! I find the patronizing or condescending behavior of some “educated” Ethiopians, no matter how small a number, to be extremely discouraging, highly objectionable, and counter productive.
My last remark has to do why this Website why it is named after me. I was targeted for criticism because such naming was found to be objectionable as evidence of my arrogance. My explanation here is not so much that I object to being arrogant if such “defect” is properly handled, for it beats being a doormat any time! The naming of the Website with my own name was an act of humility, and an effort to break away from an insidious tradition we inherited from the clandestine and conspiratorial activities of the student movements of the 1960s and 1970s. Student leaders being overly fearful of the oppressive Government of Haile Selassie [by hindsight, Haile Selassie seems quite benign compared to Meles or Mengistu], such leaders adopted the subversive technique of ambush propaganda defaming individuals and misinforming the public by hiding behind false names. Though students had to turn to such subversive methods at that time due to the nature of the government they were dealing with, they also started the use of secretiveness and lies and the technique of throwing political darts at opponents hiding behind false names as a new standard political culture. Despite the fact that we are now in a new political ball-game where there is no need for such technique of hiding behind false identity, a number of individuals are still fearful to state their views in their own names. Sadly, old habits do not die that easily.
Thus, by using my own name, I was hoping to teach by example how to be up-front with what I do, thus establishing a new tradition of taking responsibility, and facing the world without having to resort to anonymity or made-up names, as a number of Ethiopians tend to do when making political remarks. Furthermore, my naming the Website www.tecolahagos.com is an act closer to the truth of our need to present ourselves foremost as “individuals” not as faceless representatives of an ethnic or political group. It also saves us from being ridiculed for using high sounding, fantastic, and over-glorified names thereby hiding sectarian and subversive intentions. My approach is humble as that of a few of Ethiopian Websites, which designations are of human scale and within reach. Nevertheless, it is much less arrogant than to self-proclaim a Website as the “foremost” or “premier” Ethiopian Website.
I do not mind at all my ideas being criticized, but I absolutely object to being insulted by anybody even by a god. There is a world of difference between being informed (criticized), for example, that “your ideas are foolish, ” as opposed to being insulted “you are a fool.” My critics’ articles or chat statements are often of the later kind, and I take such sophomoric acts of my critics with deadly seriousness. I believe at least three generations of Ethiopians are the product of Ethiopia’s “ye enatkin” deformed public school culture of abuse and degradation. However, as adults that is no excuse in continuing our self-mutilation. To a number of people, my reaction is simply according the law of Moses, “an eye for an eye.” I know some of my readers shrink from any form of insults. Moreover, some of you rightly had pointed out to me that I need not be engaged in such activities as well, since my record can stand on it own. I appreciate the support and confidence of my fellow Ethiopians, but mind you, I did not start this personal individualized attack. I am correcting the distortion of the history of long dead individuals. I do recognize that some of the distortion surrounding some of our historic figures maybe simply a question of honest academic error, an error germane in the retelling of exiting and exotic stories. In no way had I intended my articles to censor anyone, and as a couple of my defenders pointed out, all I did was to open for discussion some provocative issues and assertions taken to be true for granted that may even be taboo to some. There is no harm in that.
There are other examples of the chameleon like characteristics of some Ethiopians that I could cite. I have read articles and criticisms labeling me as a “Tygrean intellectual” in an effort to alienate me from the people of Ethiopia and to undermine my work. I am not in any form a narrow ethnic based demagogue, and have never identified myself or defined my work in such tailored and narrow fashion. I simply do not have the mind-set of a parochial person. I write and paint sincerely believing that my effort and life is meaningful and significant and that I could help the people of Ethiopia. Furthermore, the people of Ethiopia have overcome tremendous difficulties as a great people with a tremendous past. They are in the process of shaping a bright future for all of us so we can go back home with pride without fear of persecution.
I hope a couple of my good friends will also temper their fanaticism and fantasy about an Emperor, who at this moment in our history, is without much redeeming value to us. I do not want to think that in their case, this could be a question of the acorn not falling far from the tree and not a matter of a lack of cognition. I hope that they realize the fight going on is for the soul of a new Ethiopia, an Ethiopia that is all inclusive, not fragmented by ethnicity, nor stratified by incestuous hierarchy; most importantly, an Ethiopia free from manipulators in any power structure, thus an Ethiopia free from violence, betrayal, cruelty, famine and hate.
In 1894, the anarchist Emile Henry declared with moral certitude while facing the guillotine, “There are no innocents!” I too, facing a different sort of guillotine—the guillotine of critical thinking—assert that there are no innocent parties in the long history of Ethiopia. The history of the people and leaders of Ethiopia resembles, more than anything else, a chaotic African market. Ethiopia’s history is maddeningly diverse, and narrates to us about constant battles and desperate events often. It is a history of people being dehumanized, relentlessly oppressed, and violently treated; it is a history of leaders ever eager to do most anything to acquire and remain in power. On the other hand, it is also a history of battles and wars fought by courageous people against foreign aggressors. Moreover, it is a history of the meanness, cruelty, and at times of great nobility of character of ordinary Ethiopians. Maybe such a history is the norm rather than the exception the world over. It was with reservation that I wrote in previous essays about the virtues of some of Ethiopia’s emperors in comparison to others. I never intended to color any Ethiopian emperor with absolute glowing colors. The search and exposition of historical truth must be seen as a liberating force and not as a subversive one.
Whether I am writing about slavery or treason, the proper acknowledgement of what actually happened in our past is enlightening and liberating from a life encumbered and heavily weighed down with centuries of lies and distortions. We do not have to fight, tooth and nail, to convince each other as to which Ethiopian Emperor committed the most atrocities or the most treason. My essays are expositions of a corrective kind of what I believed was a distortion of history by an entrenched and highly polarizing group of people with their elites and supporters. I envision a far better Ethiopia that we could all claim as our own than the vision of those self-promoting groups. It is such a glorious vision for Ethiopia that prompted all of my essays. The vision of a glorious Ethiopia is some thing to behold and aspire for as a realizable future reality. The End.
[Special Thank You to all of my readers for enduring with me this very long four-part essay. We hardly ever express our love and appreciation to each other. I want to take this opportunity to say to all my Ethiopian brothers and sisters that I love every single one of you. God Bless Our Beloved Ethiopia! TWH]
Tecola W. Hagos
November 20, 2004
CONSOLIDATED PARTIAL BIBLIOGRAPHY [For All Four Parts]
1a – AFRICA WATCH: HUMAN RIGHTS REPORTS for the period covering 1992 to 2003.
1b – AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL: REPORTS ON HUMAN RIGHTS AROUND THE WORLD for the period
covering 1992 to 2003. 1c – ETHIOPIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL, REPORTS for the period covering
1992 to 2000.
2 – Gedeyi Bahreshum, AMORA, (in Amharic) 1985.
3 – Darrell Bates, THE ABYSSINIAN DIFFICULTY: THE EMPEROR THEODORUS AND THE MAGDALA
CAMPAIGN, 1867-68, Oxford UK: Oxford University Press, 1979.
4 – P.T. Bauer, EQUALITY, THE THIRD WORLD, AND ECONOMIC DELUSION, Cambridge MA: Harvard
University Press, 1981.
5 – Gaitachew Bekele, THE EMPEROR’S CLOTHES: A PERSONAL VIEWPOINT ON POLITICS AND
ADMINISTRATION IN THE IMPERIAL ETHIOPIAN GOVERNMENT, 1941-1974, East Lansing MI: Michigan State University, 1993.
6 – Joseph H. Berke, THE TYRANNY OF MALICE: EXPLORING THE DARK SIDE OF CHARACTER AND
CULTURE, New York NY: Summit Books, Simon & Schuster Inc., 1988.
7 – Henry Blanc, A NARRATIVE OF CAPTIVITY IN ABYSSINIA, London UK: Cass, 1970.
8 – Jimmy Carter, KEEPING FAITH: MEMORIES OF A PRESIDENT, New York NY: Bantam, 1982;
TALKING PEACE: A VISION FOR THE NEXT GENERATION, New York NY: Puffin Books, 1995.
9 – Herman Cohen, INTERVENING IN AFRICA: SUPERPOWER PEACEMAKING IN A TROUBLED CONTINENT, STUDIES IN DIPLOMACY, St. Martine’s Press, 2000.
10 – Haggai Erlich, ETHIOPIA AND THE MIDDLE EAST, Publishers, Boulder CO: Rienner Publishers, 1994.
11 – Gebre Selassie (Tsehafi Taizaz), TARIKE ZEMEN ZEDAGNAWI MENILIK NEGUSE NEGEST ZEETHIOPIA,
(in Amharic) Addis Ababa, 1967.
12 – Zewde Gebre-Sellassie, YOHANNES IV OF ETHIOPIA: A POLITICAL BIOGRAPHY, London UK: Clarendon
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