Kumlachew G. Salilew
After I’ll write my earlier piece on the same topic, a lot of happening has undergone in the socio political landscape of Ethiopia. Much of what I feared going to occur in the country unless dealt with utmost resilience and care seems to be happening at a fast pace. After the government declared the state of emergency in early October and a rule by a command post which is practically an unofficial military dictatorship, according to local correspondents, tension and confusion are growing much more. One of the restrictions that the state of emergency banned is the travel of the diplomatic missions’ fifty kilometers away from the capital Addis Ababa. In response to that, many countries of the world including the United States of America has issued a strong travel caution for their nationals to the country. This has significantly decreased in the number of foreign travelers and the revenue from tourism that also has an implication on the foreign currency reserve of the country. After the on-going protests, many companies are also leaving the country that also casts unfavorable light on the economy of the country. The interest of this piece, however, is to see the partnership between the Western democratic governments and the Ethiopian regime and what that means in the quest for a better and inclusive political system by the Ethiopian public.
The current authoritarian government of Ethiopia is the darling of the west largely for its key role of global anti-terrorism strategy. For its service in fighting specially the Islamic militant Al-Shabab terrorist cells in Somalia, the government has received a wide range of support. For the last twenty five years, a huge amount of European Union and the United States different form of assistance flow to the country mostly to be later laundered and embezzled by the corrupt officials. From funds for development and or poverty reductions projects to military and security aids.
The value of EU development assistance to Ethiopia has averaged an estimated €160 million per year aggregate while the United is among the five largest donors of the country through USAID. The huge external funds to the government mainly fattened the pocket of the ruling political elites than reaching out to its target beneficiaries or meting its desired purposes. This has helped the incumbent to build one of the top three military forces in Sub Sharan Africa. Along with the totalitarian companionship between the Communist Party of China and Tigray People Liberation Front of Ethiopia (TPLF) and the services the latter can access from the former primarily in the areas of surveillance and security, the Ethiopian current regime has been a common name among the top list of human right violators and journalist jailors.
The backup of the dictatorial regime of Ethiopia is not limited to the material, but also complimented by the high delegates’ official visit and painting of the country’s political system as democratic. The latest 2015 election where the incumbent won for the fourth around 100 % of the national parliament seat that leaves zero space for the oppositions ,for instance, was described as democratic first by the U.S national security advisor Susan Rice and later by the president of the united states Barak Obama.
This has been a source of disappointment among voices in the country for a liberalized and inclusive political order and even more especially with in the politically charged Ethiopia’s diaspora community. In this regard, it’s a common occurrence to see demonstrations of the Ethiopia’s diaspora in front of one of the Western diplomatic missionaries calling for the end of supporting the tyrant regime of Ethiopia.
Over the last two years, waves of nationwide protests the discontent in the country is overflowing and the western governments lately appears to send strong message to the government to reform its socio political as well as economic policies. A strong disapproval of the government comes, for instance, from the Prime Minster of Germany Angela Merkel who in her latest visit in Ethiopia told her Ethiopian equivalent to use civil means to react to public grievances and observe international regimes for the respect of human rights.
The Ethiopian society, by and large, regarded the western public and governments as defenders of democracy and ally in their cry for a more inclusive country. As a person who lived in that country for more than two decades , I can say that the image the greater majority of Ethiopia’s have about the role of the west in the world politics is to a great deal of extent affirmative and consider it as a guardian of civil rights , freedom and equality.
The educated, connected & mainly young Ethiopian’s who as we speak are protesting for the respect of their inviolable and God given rights does also expect solidarity from the ‘free world ‘. A support that can manifest itself, for instance, by cutting the billion dollar tax payers money from going to the illegitimate dictators’ who would misuse the money for further tightening their grip over their own people. And, the approach now taken by countries like Germany is a step in the right direction.
The ruling clique TPLF still does not seem to want to engage with the real grievances of the public but as of yet attempts to respond through reshuffling the cabinet and holding conferences with pseudo so-called opposition parties and etc. However, the situation in the country does not change a single bit but instead appears is getting worse. The government is not conducting any meaningful consultation with the major stakeholders of the society and instead is preoccupied with making cosmic changes to remain in power. Before a week time ago, for example, a major opposition figure was arrested while returning home after speaking to the European Parliament about the situation in the country. And, his alleged crime reported is that in the EU parliament he was seating next to a person who is also an opposition figure himself and regarded as terrorist by the Ethiopian government. In the northern part of Ethiopia in places such as Gonder, the situation is even dire and emerging in to a full blown armed warfare between the government soldiers and the people.
The worlds’ liberal states should reexamine their relation with such dictatorships. This is the time to either directly or indirectly help the forces of liberalism take root in not yet democracies including Ethiopia. It is in line with the stated moral and ideological positioning of the west as well as in its long term best national interest that it should stop supporting corrupted political systems such as the TPLF of Ethiopia not to thrive on and perpetuate their despotic rule.
Kumlachew G. Salilew
The contents of this article are the sole responsibility of the author, and can under no circumstances be regarded as reflecting the position of ALDA and the European Union.