Sunday, December 25, 2005

U.S. About to Awaken to a Nightmare in Ethiopia

Houston Chronicle -- While the West celebrates the joys of Christmas, Africa's oldest independent nation, Ethiopia, is submerged in apocalyptic violence sponsored by the regime.

The Daily Telegraph of London recently described repression of the opposition and the media as exceeding anything in the recent history of the continent of Africa, including that of Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe and the apartheid era of South Africa.

According to Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, paramilitary units continue to use random searches, beatings, mass arrests and lethal force against peaceful protesters. In Ethiopia, a crime against humanity is unfolding while the world either vacillates or lacks the will to stop it.

In the face of threats, escalating violence by government forces — and without the protection of coalition forces — 26 million Ethiopians voted for the candidates of their choice last May. Unfortunately, many if not most of these duly elected representatives are in jail charged with treason, primarily for running in opposition to the regime.

The charge is nothing more than an attempt to silence the opposition that won more than 80 percent of the popular vote in May.

The regime of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has launched what the Daily Telegeraph correspondent describes as "a systematic onslaught against the majority of the Ethiopian people," save his Tigrean minority tribe in the north, after the Ethiopian people overwhelmingly rejected his regime in the last election.

U.S. policy toward Africa is paradoxical. This country wants Africa's mineral resources and huge market potential, but ignores serious human rights abuses. It harbors dictators like Meles of Ethiopia to the detriment of its long-term interests. These interests include more than 100,000 U.S. jobs and an emerging market of 700 million consumers.

The Bush administration's rhetoric about democracy is confined to the sands of Iraq and to the mountains of Afghanistan. In Africa, even the rhetoric for democracy is subdued.

Like the Clinton administrations before it, the Bush administration has failed to see that lack of human rights and democracy endanger Africa's economic potential and world stability. Clinton tried to wine and dine Africa's dictators to nudge them to move toward democracy, but he was disappointed. The Bush approach is worse; there is a near-total disregard for human rights and crime against humanity in Africa. Washington's response is lukewarm compared to that in Europe.

The lack of a comprehensive global policy to fight terrorism and to foster democracy bedevils U.S. foreign policy, forcing it to turn a blind eye to tremendous crimes against humanity in Darfur, Ethiopia and other places in Africa and Asia.

Since the May election Ethiopia — once a stable U.S. ally — has been racked with violence and turmoil. According to European Union research and investigation, the ruling Ethiopian Revolutionary Democratic Front lost the May election but decided to cling to power at any cost. The resulting cost to the Ethiopian people has been tremendous suffering. As random killings, beatings, lootings and mass arrests continue, the country is gripped in fear. The joy of a 90 percent voter turnout last May is turning into a nightmare.

To add insult to injury, the independent media have been banned; state-owned television has shown pictures of journalists on the air as criminals wanted for treason for pieces they wrote against the regime's excess and oppressive conditions.

So far, 89 people have been shot at point blank range for participating in peaceful street demonstrations and close to 70,000 have been arrested as possible foes and put in remote prisons, where the death toll is mounting. According to the British newspaper The Observer, a number of people have died while in custody of government forces.

Ethiopia, with more than 70 million people, has become a prison camp while the world has turned a blind eye. Prior to the recent crackdown and election fraud, Meles was even touted as one of Africa's rising leaders. His nemesis, Isias Afeworki of Eritrea, has also been listed as one of them. The United States recently placed sanctions on Eritrea.

Both Isias of Eritrea and Meles were the one-time darlings of Jimmy Carter and other well-known Western leaders. This has given way to inertia in the West in stopping this crime against humanity from unfolding.

If left untended, Ethiopia will implode, and the result will be a nightmare for the United States in its efforts to fight terrorism in the region, as well as for U.S. economic interests across Africa.

The Bush administration needs to rein in Meles — not only for the sake of human rights, or democracy — but also to preserve its own strategic interest and to stop terrorism from spiraling out of control in the Middle East and in Africa.

Abdu, originally from Africa, is a Houston-based writer on foreign policy.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"friendly tyrannts" are allowed to kill, rob etc. that is in line with long-standing Anglo-American foreign policy.