9/11 report: Key findings

The US 9/11 commission's report has urged sweeping changes to how the intelligence services operate after finding that the government had "failed to protect American people" from the 11 September 2001 attacks.
Here are the key findings of the 576-page report:

Failure to confront

The report charts how al-Qaeda was allowed to develop into a real danger to the US, concluding that while the attacks "were a shock... they should not have come as a surprise":

"The 9/11 attack was driven by Osama Bin Laden" who "built over the course of a decade a dynamic and lethal organisation" in al-Qaeda
What we can say with confidence is that none of the measures adopted by the US government from 1998 to 2001 disturbed or even delayed the progress of the al-Qaeda plot"

"The most important failure was one of imagination. We do not believe leaders understood the gravity of the threat"

"At no point before 9/11 was the Department of Defense fully engaged in the mission of countering al-Qaeda, even though it was perhaps the most dangerous foreign enemy threatening the United States"

"The FBI did not have the capability to link the collective knowledge of agents in the field to national priorities"

"The terrorist danger from Bin Laden and al-Qaeda was not a major topic for policy debate among the public, the media or in the Congress. Indeed, it barely came up during the 2000 presidential campaign"

No single individual was to blame, but both individuals and institutions had to take responsibility for failing to stop the attacks

There was no operational link between al-Qaeda and ousted Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.


Missed opportunities

The report finds that the 9/11 plot might have been nipped in the bud had the security services done their work more thoroughly, although it accepts that "since the plotters were flexible and resourceful, we cannot know whether any single step or series of steps would have defeated them".

The report accuses the "organisations and systems of that time" of:

Allowing two hijackers, Khalid al-Midhar and Nawaq Alhamzi, to enter and move about the US without proper surveillance despite their known links to al-Qaeda

"Not linking the arrest of Zacarias Moussaoui, described as interested in flight training for the purpose of using an airplane in a terrorist act, to the heightened indications of attack"

Not discovering false statements on visa applications and not recognising faked passports

Not expanding no-fly lists to include names from terrorist watch lists and not searching airline passengers identified by computer-based screening

Not hardening aircraft cockpit doors or taking other measures to prepare for the possibility of suicide hijackings


Open to attack

While praising the response of members of the emergency services to the attacks, the report finds institutional weaknesses within the US which both made it easier for extremists to attack and harder for the authorities to respond adequately:

"The hijackers had to beat only one layer of security - the security checkpoint process... Once on board, the hijackers were faced with aircraft personnel who were trained to be non-confrontational in the event of a hijacking"

"The civilian and military defenders of the nation's airspace... attempted and failed to improvise an effective homeland defence against an unprecedented challenge"

"The chain of command did not function well. The president could not reach some senior officials. The secretary of defence did not enter the chain of command until the morning's key events were over"


Key recommendations

The report says that America is a safer place since the attacks, after action by the Bush administration.

"Because of offensive actions against al-Qaeda since 9/11, and defence actions to improve homeland security, we believe we are safer today," it notes.

However, it warns against complacency and makes detailed recommendations :

To create a national counter-terrorism centre "unifying strategic intelligence and operational planning against Islamist terrorists across the foreign and the domestic divide"

To appoint a new Senate-confirmed national intelligence director to unify the intelligence community of more than dozen agencies

To create a "network-based information sharing system that transcends traditional governmental boundaries"

To set up a specialised and integrated national security unit within the FBI; the report did not support creation of a new domestic intelligence agency

To strengthen Congressional oversight

To strengthen the FBI and Homeland defenders

To develop global strategy of diplomacy and public relations to dismantle Osama Bin Laden's al-Qaeda terror network and defeat its militant Islamic ideology

To establish a better dialogue between the West and the Islamic world


Slower than average job growth is expected as firms increasingly employ workers to perform more specialized tasks with titles that reflect the specific duties of the job rather than the general title of economist.
Job seekers with a background in economics should have good opportunities, although some of these opportunities will be in related occupations.
Candidates who hold a master’s or Ph.D. degree in economics will have the best employment prospects and advancement opportunities.
Quantitative skills are important in all economics specialties.

Economists study how society distributes scarce resources, such as land, labor, raw materials, and machinery, to produce goods and services. They conduct research, collect and analyze data, monitor economic trends, and develop forecasts. They research issues such as energy costs, inflation, interest rates, exchange rates, business cycles, taxes, or employment levels.
Economists devise methods and procedures for obtaining the data they need. For example, sampling techniques may be used to conduct a survey, and various mathematical modeling techniques may be used to develop forecasts. Preparing reports, including tables and charts, on research results is an important part of an economist’s job. Presenting economic and statistical concepts in a clear and meaningful way is particularly important for economists whose research is directed toward making policies for an organization. Some economists also might perform economic analysis for the media.
Many economists specialize in a particular area of economics, although general knowledge of basic economic principles is useful in each area. Microeconomists study the supply and demand decisions of individuals and firms, such as how profits can be maximized and how much of a good or service consumers will demand at a certain price. Industrial economists or organizational economists study the market structure of particular industries in terms of the number of competitors within those industries and examine the market decisions of competitive firms and monopolies. These economists also may be concerned with antitrust policy and its impact on market structure. Macroeconomists study historical trends in the whole economy and forecast future trends in areas such as unemployment, inflation, economic growth, productivity, and investment. Closely related to macroeconomists are monetary economists or financial economists, who study the money and banking system and the effects of changing interest rates. International economists study international financial markets, exchange rates, and the effects of various trade policies such as tariffs. Labor economists or demographic economists study the supply and demand for labor and the determination of wages. These economists also try to explain the reasons for unemployment and the effects of changing demographic trends, such as an aging population and increasing immigration, on labor markets. Public finance economists are involved primarily in studying the role of the government in the economy and the effects of tax cuts, budget deficits, and welfare policies. Econometricians investigate all areas of economics and use mathematical techniques such as calculus, game theory, and regression analysis to formulate economic models that help to explain economic relationships and that are used to develop forecasts related to the nature and length of business cycles, the effects of a specific rate of inflation on the economy, the effects of tax legislation on unemployment levels, and other economic phenomena. Many economists have applied these fundamental areas of economics to specific applications such as health, education, agriculture, urban and regional economics, law, history, energy, and the environment.
Most economists are concerned with practical applications of economic policy and work for a variety of organizations. Economists working for corporations are involved primarily in microeconomic issues, such as forecasting consumer demand and sales of the firm’s products. Some analyze their competitors’ growth and market share and advise their company on how to handle the competition. Others monitor legislation passed by Congress, such as environmental and worker safety regulations, and assess its impact on their business. Corporations with many international branches or subsidiaries might employ economists to monitor the economic situations in countries where they do business or to provide a risk assessment of a country into which the company might expand.
Economists working in economic consulting or research firms may perform the same tasks as economists working for corporations. Economists in consulting firms also perform much of the macroeconomic analysis and forecasting that is conducted in the United States. These economists collect data on various indicators, maintain databases, analyze historical trends, and develop models to forecast growth, inflation, unemployment, or interest rates. Their analyses and forecasts are frequently published in newspapers and journal articles.
Another large employer of economists is the government. Economists in the Federal Government administer most of the surveys and collect the majority of the economic data characterizing the United States. For example, economists in the U.S. Department of Commerce collect and analyze data on the production, distribution, and consumption of commodities produced in the United States and overseas, while economists employed by the U.S. Department of Labor collect and analyze data on the domestic economy, including data on prices, wages, employment, productivity, and safety and health. Economists who work for government agencies also assess economic conditions in the United States or abroad in order to estimate the economic effects of specific changes in legislation or public policy. Government economists advise policy makers in areas such as telecommunications deregulation, Social Security revamping, the effects of tax cuts on the budget deficit, and the effectiveness of imposing tariffs on imported steel. An economist working in State or local government might analyze data on the growth of school-age or prison populations, and on employment and unemployment rates, in order to project future spending needs.

Economists have structured work schedules. They often work alone, writing reports, preparing statistical charts, and using computers, but they also may be an integral part of a research team. Most work under pressure of deadlines and tight schedules, which may require overtime. Their routine may be interrupted by special requests for data and by the need to attend meetings or conferences. Frequent travel may be necessary.

A master’s or Ph.D. degree in economics is required for many private-sector economist jobs and for advancement to more responsible positions. Economics includes numerous specialties at the graduate level, such as advanced economic theory, econometrics, international economics, and labor economics. Students should select graduate schools that are strong in specialties in which they are interested. Undergraduate economics majors can choose from a variety of courses, ranging from microeconomics, macroeconomics, and econometrics to more philosophical courses, such as the history of economic thought. Because of the importance of quantitative skills to economists, courses in mathematics, statistics, econometrics, sampling theory and survey design, and computer science are extremely helpful. Some schools help graduate students find internships or part-time employment in government agencies, economic consulting or research firms, or financial institutions prior to graduation.
In the Federal Government, candidates for entry-level economist positions must have a bachelor’s degree with a minimum of 21 semester hours of economics and 3 hours of statistics, accounting, or calculus.
Whether working in government, industry, research organizations, or consulting firms, economists with a bachelor’s degree usually qualify for most entry-level positions as a research assistant, for administrative or management trainee positions, or for various sales jobs. A master’s degree usually is required to qualify for more responsible research and administrative positions. Many businesses, research and consulting firms, and government agencies seek individuals who have strong computer and quantitative skills and can perform complex research. A Ph.D. is necessary for top economist positions in many organizations. Many corporation and government executives have a strong background in economics.
A master’s degree usually is the minimum requirement for a job as an instructor in a junior or community college. In most colleges and universities, however, a Ph.D. is necessary for appointment as an instructor. A Ph.D. and extensive publications in academic journals are required for a professorship, tenure, and promotion.
Aspiring economists should gain experience gathering and analyzing data, conducting interviews or surveys, and writing reports on their findings while in college. This experience can prove invaluable later in obtaining a full-time position in the field, because much of the economist’s work, especially in the beginning, may center on these duties. With experience, economists eventually are assigned their own research projects. Related job experience, such as work as a stock or bond trader, might be advantageous.
Those considering careers as economists should be able to pay attention to details, because much time is spent on precise data analysis. Patience and persistence are necessary qualities, given that economists must spend long hours on independent study and problem solving. Good communication skills also are useful, as economists must be able to present their findings, both orally and in writing, in a clear, concise manner.

Economists held about 13,000 jobs in 2004. Government employed 58 percent of economists, in a wide range of government agencies, with 34 percent in Federal government and 24 percent in State and local government. The U.S. Departments of Labor, Agriculture, and State are the largest Federal employers of economists. The remaining jobs were spread throughout private industry, particularly in scientific research and development services and management, scientific, and technical consulting services. A number of economists combine a full-time job in government, academia, or business with part-time or consulting work in another setting.
Employment of economists is concentrated in large cities. Some work abroad for companies with major international operations, for U.S. Government agencies, and for international organizations, such as the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and United Nations.
In addition to the previously mentioned jobs, economists hold faculty positions in colleges and universities. Economics faculties have flexible work schedules and may divide their time among teaching, research, consulting, and administration. (See the statement on teachers—postsecondary elsewhere in the Handbook.)

Employment of economists is expected to grow more slowly than average for all occupations through 2014. Employment growth should be the fastest in private industry, especially in management, scientific, and technical consulting services. Rising demand for economic analysis in virtually every industry should stem from the growing complexity of the global economy, the effects of competition on businesses, and increased reliance on quantitative methods for analyzing and forecasting business, sales, and other economic trends. Some corporations choose to hire economic consultants to fill these needs, rather than keeping an economist on staff. This practice should result in more economists being employed in consulting services. However, job growth will be limited as firms increasingly employ workers to perform more specialized tasks with titles that reflect the specific duties of the job instead of the general title of economist. In addition, few new jobs are expected in government, but the need to replace experienced workers who transfer to other occupations or who retire or leave the labor force for other reasons will lead to job openings for economists across all industries in which they are employed.
Individuals with a background in economics should have job opportunities, although some of these opportunities will be in related occupations. As firms increasingly employ workers to perform more specialized tasks, the best opportunities for individuals with backgrounds in economics are expected to be in positions that have titles other than economist. Some examples of job titles often held by those with an economics background are financial analyst, market analyst, public policy consultant, researcher or research assistant, and econometrician.
A master’s or Ph.D. degree, coupled with a strong background in economic theory, mathematics, statistics, and econometrics, provides the basis for acquiring any specialty within the economics field. Economists who are skilled in quantitative techniques and their application to economic modeling and forecasting, and who also have good communications skills, should have the best job opportunities. Like those in many other disciplines, however, Ph.D. holders are likely to face keen competition for tenured teaching positions in colleges and universities.
Bachelor’s degree holders may face competition for the limited number of economist positions for which they qualify. However, they will qualify for a number of other positions in which they can take advantage of their economic knowledge by conducting research, developing surveys, or analyzing data. Many graduates with bachelor’s degrees will find jobs in industry and business as management or sales trainees or as administrative assistants. Bachelor’s degree holders with good quantitative skills and a strong background in mathematics, statistics, survey design, and computer science also may be hired by private firms as researchers. Some will find jobs in government.
Candidates who meet State certification requirements may become high school economics teachers. The demand for secondary school economics teachers is expected to grow, as economics becomes an increasingly important and popular course. (See the statement on teachers—preschool, kindergarten, elementary, middle, and secondary elsewhere in the Handbook.)

Median annual wage and salary earnings of economists were $72,780 in May 2004. The middle 50 percent earned between $53,650 and $96,240. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $41,040, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $129,170.
The Federal Government recognizes education and experience in certifying applicants for entry-level positions. The starting salary for economists having a bachelor’s degree was about $24,667 a year in 2005; however, those with superior academic records could begin at $30,567. Those having a master’s degree could qualify for positions at an annual salary of $37,390. Those with a Ph.D. could begin at $45,239, while some individuals with experience and an advanced degree could start at $54,221. Starting salaries were slightly higher in selected geographical areas where the prevailing local pay was higher. The average annual salary for economists employed by the Federal Government was $89,441 a year in 2005.


By Mathza
(The writer is a concerned independent Ethiopian observer. He has no direct or indirect connections with the government or EPRDF or its Component organizations or affiliates or any other group.)
In this 21st century, Ethiopia finds itself ravaged by natural and man-made disasters and at the bottom of the rung of nations. Poverty is rampant. Unemployment is very high. The limited resources of the country are diverted to mitigate the devastating effect of drought and for defense from external enemies as well as separatists. As happens in most multiparty states, the major political players (government and oppositions) usually entertain diverse and diametrically opposed concepts, policies, objectives and strategies. This writing focuses on the oppositions. It tries to ferret out and probe their thinking and performance. It attempts to gauge the relevance of their arguments and complaints against government policies in the light of objective realities. Finally, it concludes with the need for them to be genuine oppositions so that the country could benefit from fresh, realistic and workable ideas emanating from them.
The term ‘oppositions’ is here used in its broadest sense. It refers to all or part of those who entertain diverse objectives which are different from those of the incumbent government of Ethiopia. They comprise separatists, parties, organizations, groups, private press and individuals. Many of them became oppositions since day one, i.e., since EPRDF took over the government in 1991. The power mania among them condemned the new government for not handing over the administration to them on a silver platter.
It is the inherent, legitimate and democratic right of every person to criticize his/her government. People should be encouraged to do so, when the situation calls for, and as long as they speak and write the truth, in other words, constructive criticism. Any individual, group or government that is active and gets things done is likely to make mistakes and commit wrongs sooner or later. Practically all governments, including the democratic ones, do, intentionally (in the best interest of their countries) make statements or take actions which some may not understand or consider unacceptable. Some times they also keep quite or do nothing, again in the best interest of their countries. In the best interest of their countries governments are obliged to limit access to some crucial information. The Ethiopian government is not an exception. Under such circumstances, its citizens and oppositions would be entitled to criticize it. They should, however, ask themselves what would have happened if the statement was not made or if information was not disseminated or if action was not taken? The inclusion of the “what ... if...” question in criticizing the government could, in some cases, bring reality on the ground into consideration and thereby modify or mellow their views. Although the majority of citizens are silent it does not mean that they do not have opinions on their government. We, unfortunately, hear from a handful of prejudiced naysayers many of whom are multiple contributors, wearing multiple mantles. A statement attributed to Kerrel and Goggin, cited in one of the websites sums it all: "Condemnation without investigation is true height of ignorance."
Constructive criticism should be based on hard facts, not on hearsay, i.e., on research and systematic analysis which should include the “what ... if ... ” question. The sequence to be followed should comprise: collection of data and information, analyzing them and forming conclusions. The conclusions should be the basis for formulating appropriate policies and strategies for improving or solving the problem, the subject matter of the criticism. If this procedure is genuinely followed the writer’s assessment of the conditions prevailing will show what has been done, is being done and is planned to be done and how. His/her findings could include: nothing has been done, or what has been done is inadequate, or enough has been done considering the inadequacy of resources and other priorities. In the event the author becomes convinced that there is an important gap(s) to be filled he/she should elaborate the positive and negative aspects of closing the gap(s). The recommendations resulting from such an approach, provided they fall in the priority areas of the country, are likely to attract the attention of those institutions, both governmental and private, and individuals responsible for or interested in the subject matter under consideration. It is understandable that the government cannot and should not take seriously irrational and blind criticisms that are not based on facts and some kind of logical analysis. Oppositions cry out when the government fails to heed or react to their criticisms.
An endless number of boring articles comprising stale and repetitive materials and using abrasive languages by a negligible number of vociferous persons have been appearing and continue to appear in the internet and other media vehemently criticizing and indicting the Ethiopian government for all kinds of ills, including those which plague the oppositions themselves, whether justified or not. The litany of lamentations and malicious propaganda campaign includes: worsening living conditions of the people, rejected land tenure system, ethnic divisions and tensions (many instigated by them and their likes), lack/inadequate free market and privatization, and natural disasters, such as the recurrent drought and forest fires. For example, the government was accused of intentionally causing one of the forest fires in the southern part of the country a couple of years ago for which six persons were recently sentenced to imprisonment. How is it possible that every thing that the government or the Prime Minister (Meles Zenawi) does is wrong and happenings that have nothing to do with the government are attributed to it or to him?
Although a very small proportion of the criticisms are constructive, by far, most are destructive with no shred of evidence to support them. The latter are simply fabrications, gross exaggerations, blatant lies (bere welede), truth twisted to serve their agendas. They evidently cast doubts on the integrity and credibility of those who deny the undeniable. Many of the conclusions, proposals and recommendations, if and when presented, are mainly repetitions of what the government has already done, is doing or plans to do. Some are impractical or of low priorities. The accusers do not, of course, mention constraints, such as, population pressure, abject poverty and destitution of 44% of the Ethiopian population (reduced from 59% during the 1990s, according to the UN), HIV/AIDS and scarcity of financial and trained human resources. These limit the capacity and capability to address the myriad of problems facing the country and to undertake as many programs and projects which the country is in dire need to come out of the quagmire it is in.
Many of the people are so poor that they cannot afford to buy their food even if the market was glutted with foodstuffs. Farmers are the hardest hit. They have been exposed to recurrent and chronic drought for three decades and as a result they have not been able to recover. They lost their personal properties and means of production (domestic animals, tools and seeds). Chronic poverty is, obviously, the basic problem in regard to the recurrent emergencies that the country is encountering. Although inadequate governance may have some contribution for reasons explained elsewhere, the root cause of the repeated episodes of drought is not the government, as oppositions would have us believe, but nature: worsening climatic conditions, global warming. (M. Yves Gazzo, the head of the European Commission Delegation in Ethiopia, is one of those who confirmed this fact by stating “climate is changing everywhere and I think Ethiopia had been so hurt by this climate change.”) It is aggravated by population pressure, grinding poverty, primitive subsistence farming technology and environmental degradation -- deforestation, forest and bush fires, flooding, severe and worsening land erosion, over-cultivation, over-grazing, etc. These have contributed in rendering Ethiopia one of the countries with the lowest amounts of water availability and the poorest quality water supplies in the world.
The government with very limited resources whose magnitude was drastically reduced by diversion from development programs to deal with emergency situations and to defend the country against Eritrean aggression has been and is trying to tackle such overwhelming tasks in many priority areas. According to the Prime Minister, it “has launched massive food security projects aimed at sustainably over-coming the effects of periodical drought in the country.” This has impressed and disposed development partners toward supporting the development needs of the country. The IMF leader Horst Köhler is one of them. The Director General of the International Labor Organization (ILO), Joan Somavia, who acknowledged that the food security program “is a correct measure,” is another.
There are, however, no quick-fix solutions. The positive response made by the development partners to Ethiopia’s appeal for US$3.2 billion (US$495 million already pledged by some of them) intended to significantly reduce food aid dependency in 3-5 years will go a long way in mitigating drought and poverty related problems. The strategy that is being formulated by the Coalition for Food Security has as its aim attaining food self-sufficiency in five years. A longer-term vision has been formulated. The 12-year plan announced requires 53 billion Birr 60% of which has already been pledged by donors. This is expected to meet Ethiopia’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), i.e., reducing poverty by half in 2015. The recent decision made by the United States government to replace part of its food aid by cash for use in local purchase of food augurs well for the success of this target and strategies. The World Food Program (WFP) and EU which already practice the policy of buying locally produced food are committed to continue to do so. It was reported that 300,000-350,000 tones of surplus grain was available for purchase this year.
With the above caveats in mind and the understanding that changes do not occur overnight, let us move on to the remaining part of this writing. Although the topics that could be covered under this kind of presentation are many, some of the more important ones are grouped into two categories. These are: politics and democracy, and social and economic development. The first is dealt with in this writing. The second will form the subject matter of another writing.
The oppositions say the Ethiopian society was united and harmonious during the previous regimes; the ethno-centric policy is divisive; the federal system based on nations and nationalities is disintegrating Ethiopia; the public land ownership is against the will of the people; human rights are violated; the leadership lacks educational qualification; and there is no democracy in Ethiopia.
A: Ethnic-based Federalism
The bogus statements that Ethiopians were always united, that they enjoyed harmonious co-existence, that they were happy under the previous governments, that all Ethiopians enjoyed equality, etc., are all lies. Why the proliferation of ethnic-based liberation fronts and movements if such was the case? The truth is the country was held together by force, not voluntarily, a situation which was likely to explode any time with dire consequences. It is apparent to those with open mind that federation based on nations and nationalities is an ingenious mechanism that saved the country from dismemberment. That this is so was confirmed by the May (2003) scholars National Conference on Federalism, Conflict and Peace Building. The German Ambassador to Ethiopia expressed the support of the federal system by the international community by saying: “inspite of the manifold challenges, Ethiopia's decision to embark on the road to federal democracy was a bold endeavor and admired by its friends and partners.” What is surprising and disgusting is the chauvinists and their supporters insisting on reverting to some sort of the older system of government knowing fully well and ignoring the fact that there is no turning back the clock.
Reversing the ethnic-based federal system is neither desirable nor possible. The nationalities and states have tasted the sweetness and advantages of the decentralized system, currently being extended to the woreda level. Decentralization has already taken place in 478 woredas where elections were held. How on earth will they give up the equality they enjoy and the freedom they never ever had or experienced to use and develop their languages, practice their customs, govern themselves all the way down to the qebele level, use the resources available to them according to the priorities determined by themselves, for themselves, etc.? They will not, period. Fantasizing to dismantle the ethnic-based federal system is tantamount to conspiring to create chaos in, dismember and jeopardize the very survival of the country. The Ethiopian people will hold the conspirators responsible for such heinous treachery.
On the contrary, the Ethiopian model of federalism is attracting the attention of neighboring countries. In Somalia, delegates currently negotiating the future of Somalia agreed on a federal system. This means a clan-based federal system. In Eritrea, according to the Eritrean Federal Democratic Movement (EFDR) “the Eritrean nationalities can rule themselves by themselves and evolve in their own cultural, political, economic and social options.” Details of the EFDR proposals, which EFDR considers most appropriate for Eritrea, show close resemblance to the Ethiopian federal system. The Eritrean Independent Democratic Movement’s (EIDM) concept for federal republican governance in Eritrea appears to be not very different from that of EFDR. The Kunama nationalities want “Ethno-Federalism,” autonomy within the state of Eritrea. Outside Africa, ethnic federalism seems to be attracting attention. Afghanistan and Iraq are likely candidates. According to the Transitional Administrative Law, Iraq intends to opt for a federal arrangement.
The oppositions want to convince us that ethnic federalism is a monster that should be nipped in the bud. How honest are those who falsely accuse the government of purposely designing and implementing ethnic federalism in order to dismember the country? Have countries, such as Switzerland, India, Canada, Belgium and the United Kingdom experienced dismemberment because of their ethnic federalism? It does not take a genius to realize that Ethiopia would have been doomed to disintegration had not such a system been adopted, thanks to the current government. They tell us that the dangerous situation the country was in around the time of the fall of the Derg regime could have been averted. They even argue that, for Eritrea to gain its independence, a condition should have been imposed in regard to access to the sea, retaining Assab. This is purely hoodwinking the people that the EPLF would accede to such a demand. It would have meant resumption of war with Eritrea at a crucial time of uncertain and dangerous political transition. Continuing war with Eritrea would have emboldened ethnic-based liberation fronts to take advantage and intensify their military activities. EPRDF forces could not have contained the numerous conflicts that would have, surely, engulfed the country. The very existence of the nation was at stake. This would have, obviously, been the end of Ethiopia; there was the possibility of Ethiopia confronting the fate of the former Yugoslavia. Worse still, it could have been fragmented into a number of warlords controlled areas, like those in Somalia. Many were foretelling doom and gloom and wishing and hopefully anticipating that this would happen. Total disintegration of the country would have been imminent had one or a group of the oppositions were in the place of EPRDF and introducing cosmetic changes in governance.
A limited number of the oppositions reject outright the ‘first ethnicity/second Ethopianess’ concept. One writer contrasted this concept to that expressed by a Kurdistan opposition party spokesman who declared, “First I am an Iraqi citizen, then a Kurdistani.” Which one is natural and appealing to the people, the EPRDF’s or the Kurdistani’s who apparently did not represent the sentiment of his people as current circumstances show? The natural evolution route to state formation could be roughly depicted by family-village-clan-tribe-nation-state/country or equivalent terms, the nation being a homogeneous (ethnic) society with a territory and common history, culture, language, etc. With few exceptions, such as Somalia where the natural evolution has regressed to the clan level, the citizenry of most countries comprise more than one nation (ethnic groups). Whether one admits it or not it is natural for persons to identify themselves with the homogeneous group they belong to. To impose the ‘first Ethiopianess’ approach, which a few of the oppositions want cannot work any more, because it is against nature and is a fait accompli. The most sensible thing to do is to facilitate for nations to unite voluntarily as is being done by the present government. In this 21st century, short of this means inviting trouble and break up of the country. In view of this reality how can one advocate reverting to the ‘first Ethiopianess’ approach knowing fully well it will be vehemently opposed and therefore will not work unless one has a hidden sinister agenda to dismantle the country?
With respect to the right to self-determination, including the right to secession (Article 39 of the constitution), they claim that the Ethiopians have rejected it. When did this happen? What means was used, polling, referendum? This is a typical example of sweeping generalizations out of the blue, which is ubiquitous in the writings and speeches of the oppositions. There is no reason for any nation and nationality to demand for secession as long as the federal system works without interfering in state and local affairs. With devolution of power to the qebele level, the peoples’ fears and suspicions of and objections to the former domineering, demeaning, discriminatory and exploitative systems have evaporated and are no longer valid. Besides, meeting the elaborate conditions for secession, a complex process requiring a three-year period, would not be easy. By the way, the possibility for secession serves as both deterrent and incentive to the federal government not to intervene (except for peace and security related situations, as is the case in the United States) in the internal affairs of the states, thereby ensuring their genuine autonomy.
So far, there has never been any indication for secession, except by those losing separatists, the-so-called liberation fronts. These are the few (among many of the fronts) who continued to pursue their separatist objectives after the present government took over. It is mind-boggling to understand their insisting on secession when all their complaints are no longer valid and when the trend in the twenty-first century world is clearly toward countries forming unions and political and economic blocks to ensure first their survivals and second their development. Take the OLF, for instance. According to a summary of a book by Gadaa Melbaa, the OLF “seeks equality, human dignity, democracy, freedom and peace.” Are not these among those that the incumbent government has been doing and continues to do? Any way, as the oppositions ceaselessly assert that the people are against ethnic-based federation, why not find out if this is the case. A referendum could be conducted. It could be done with marginal cost to the taxpayer if carried out at the next election. It is very unlikely that this would be palatable to the oppositions.
The unity of the country is being threatened not by the present government but by the oppositions themselves. They spread endless venomous Ethno-phobia aimed at inciting violence and creating conflicts. They are biased and do and say things designed to incite people to create chaos. They use individuals and groups to do the dirty work for them. The recent student unrest in Addis Ababa University and Oromia State is a case in point. Some of them even sympathize with and some times defend separatists, thereby encouraging the latter to continue their belligerency. They do the same thing with the external enemies of the country. They accuse the government of pitching one ethnic group against another. Their agenda is to destabilize and bring about confusion in the country and in the process take over the power they covet so much. They do not care about the consequences as long as there is a glimmer of hope, a chance in a million, to seize power.
From a safe distance (out of harms way) and comfortable living, those in the Diaspora have nothing to loss if civil war, which they wish for, breaks out in the country. They are blind and selfish; they are obsessed with grabbing power at any cost; they exemplify the donkey that declared ‘enie kemotku serdo aybqel’ (let no grass grow after I die). It is because of them that tiny Eritrea’s Isayas dared to invade territories administered by Ethiopia. He miscalculated that he cloud create instability leading to the dismemberment of Ethiopia knowing and depending on the blind ambitions of the oppositions. He did not realize that the oppositions did not have followers to do this and that the Ethiopian people would rally as usual to defeat an external invader. What is worrying is that each and every one of the oppositions’ leaderships, entertaining differing objectives and concepts of system of government, is obsessed and dreams of occupying the highest post in government. If the current government were to hand over power to them or if they come to power on their own, be they as single or a group, they would surely be at one others’ throats and plunge the country into chaos and disintegration. Some of them would surely try to revert to the old administrative system with some cosmetic changes. By the way, as most of the Diaspora members of the oppositions are citizens of their respective adapted countries, do they have the right to interfere in the political affairs of Ethiopia where dual citizenship is not allowed? Does the United States’ law, for example, allow its citizens to interfere in the internal affairs of other countries? Readers will, surely, be interested to read articles on this by persons with expertise in international law.
Let it be known that those who advocate changing the present system are the ones who are preparing the ground for dismantling the country and not those practicing the system which has the acceptance and support of the peoples and nationalities of Ethiopia as evidenced by two elections. Look at the reconciliation and maturity of different groups, the realignment and coalescing of parties and organizations that took place in the Afar, Somali, Benishangul-Gumuz, and Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples States (SNNPS) bringing more stability to their respective states. The latest is the reorientation of the 20 member political parties of the South Ethiopia Peoples' Democratic Front (SEPDF) to form the South Ethiopia Peoples Democratic Movement (SEPDM). The negative attitude (mainly instigated by separatists) of some officials and persons in some states that was apparent during the early formative years of the federal system are of less concern now. Such concerns (excluding some anomalies, such as those in Gambella State) are becoming increasingly insignificant over time with growing understanding of democracy and maturity and the understanding of the advantages derived from practicing the evolving democratic system.
The coming into existence of UEDF, the United Ethiopian Democratic Forces, should be welcomed. The need and significance of the word “forces” is, however, not clear as it connotes or is associated with military. UEDF is a marriage of convenience, a coalition comprising fifteen disparate political groups whose main and common goal is to oust the current government in the 2005 election. Its declared goal is to bring about a “democratic, just and united Ethiopia” as if the current government is not doing just that. Most of its eight cardinal principles, except that on replacing the present government, are the same as those of EPRDF; the rest are aimed at improving on and furthering what EPRDF itself has done, is doing and will, surely, continue to do. From this it follows that the UEDF does not seem to have policy alternates distinctly different from those of EPRDF except those referring to land tenure and ethnic-based federation. If the coalition practices internal democracy and behaves and conducts itself in a peaceful and civilized manner and norms it could prove beneficial in contributing to furthering the process of democratization in Ethiopia. The Citizens League of Ethiopian-Americans (CLEA) protest over US Congress bill H.R. 2760 aimed at depriving Ethiopia of American development assistance is an exemplary concern of and support for the well being of the Ethiopian people that the UEDF could and should emulate. If it follows the past and present path of its constituent parts (lies, omissions, exaggerations, public misinformation, etc., to score shortsighted political gains) and create obstacles to development, with the intent of snatching power, it will end up being a curse to the people and the country.
The May 2005 elections will show how much support the UEDF can garner, not outside but inside Ethiopia where the votes count. The over 67 parties already registered to take part in the elections will have access to financial resources and the media during the election campaigns. The big question is, with so many parties entertaining diametrically opposite political concepts, ideologies, policies, strategies and tactics, coupled with the obsession of each of the 15 leaders of UEDF to become the prime minister (power struggle), it is difficult to see how their government could survive, assuming they win the election. They will go their separate ways and undermine whoever takes the premiership as they do now with the current government. This is already happening as evidenced by the recent row between AEUO and UEDF.
One welcome byproduct of the formation of the UEDF is the renouncement of violence and armed struggle by some movements and fronts. The Afar Revolutionary Democratic Union Front (ARDUF) was the latest to do this.
B: State Land Ownership
The oppositions incessantly condemn and harp on the policy of state ownership of land. They allege that state ownership of land constrains agricultural development and productivity as it discourages farmers from investing on the land they use. Some of them even say the land policy is the cause of the cyclical drought. In a recent interview by Africa Today, the Prime Minister asserted “peasants who have that land have the right to use it in perpetuity ... are able to pass it by way of inheritance to their children.” In other words, the land in the possession of the farmer is as good as ownership with security of tenure. There is therefore nothing to deter the farmer from undertaking improvements on his farm. All the farmer needs is a clear understanding and assurance of this right which has been confirmed by the new land certification scheme plus an adequate support and encouragement to make the optimum use of his holding.
Parts of the Oromia and the Amhara States are in the process of training trainers who will be responsible for issuance of land ownership certificates to the farmers. In fact, the Amhara State has already started issuing certificates. Mr. Martti Ahtisaari, the United Nation’s Special Envoy for the Humanitarian Crisis in the Horn of Africa, supported the government land policy for the same reason given by the government, selling land when in dire need followed by rural-to-urban exodus of farmers in droves. He made it clear that land “privatization is not an option in Ethiopia.” Dr. Diouf, FAO Director-General, corroborated this by saying “the proposals some parties have been forwarding calling for privatization of land ownership as the only means for agricultural development in Ethiopia is a misconception.” He cited China and Vietnam which did not privatize agricultural lands but were agriculturally successful. One does not have to be a rocket scientist to appreciate that the land policy has averted the influx of millions of peasants and their families to towns and cities during the consecutive droughts in Ethiopia in the past 30 years. The policy may be revised to allow sale of land now in the holding of the farmer, if necessary, once the danger of drought is reduced to a manageable level.
State ownership of land was inscribed in the constitution (Article 40) to reflect the wish of the majority which was arrived at through extensive consultations. A study carried out by the Addis Ababa University confirmed this. It is apparent that those who expressed opposition and reservations are the disgruntled elements who lost their landlordship of the most fertile agricultural lands, part of which were acquired by dispossessing of the poor peasants from their lands.
Land tenure is an issue which concerns 85% of the population. It should not be changed because a negligible vociferous element in the oppositions cried loud. These do not represent the farmers. If there is going to be a change in the present land ownership the decision should be left to the farming population, as it should be under a democratic system. As suggested above for ethnic federalism, this could be done with virtually minimum cost by conducting a referendum on it during the 2004 election. It could be an alternative approach or a follow-up to the nationwide debate on land reform proposed by the Oxfam director Barbara Stocking.
One of the accusations that some of them have been hurling at the Prime Minister is that he has double standard in regard to land tenure. They say that he returned rural and urban lands to the previous owners in Tigray but failed to do so in the rest of the country. They, of course, did not tell us that the former was done during the Derg period when the TPLF was administering Tigray after the pull out of the Derg from Tigray. The TPLF was the sole decision maker then. In the current administration, whether the oppositions admit it or not, the TPLF is one of the EPRDF and affiliates who make policies and decisions. It is quite likely that an attempt could have been made by some to denationalize land but failed because the majority, particularly the southern states, would not allow it. Because of the differing land holding systems in northern and southern Ethiopia, reverting land to the former owners has more negative impact on the Southern States. In Tigray where, with some exceptions, land was practically owned by the farming population it does not make much difference whether former owners continue to use the land or the land is redistributed.
C: Human Rights
With respect to oppositions’ complaints regarding human and democratic rights violations, yes there have been shortcomings, violations and abuses. This is likely to continue for some time to come. Zealous civil servants, mainly at qebele level (intentionally or otherwise), policemen, militia, cadres and saboteurs as well as lack or inadequacy of institutions are among those to blame. Some times law enforcement forces react with excessive force when provoked and harmed or their colleagues or officials get killed. Absence of good governance at the state level in Gambella was found to be the major cause for the recent violence started by some Anuaks. According to government findings “Ethiopian highlander hooligans and youth as well as some members of the administration and state police committed the atrocity.” Most of the culprits were apprehended and were awaiting to be brought to federal courts. In the mean time the federal government apologized for its failure to take measures in advance. The area continues to be overwhelmed by on-going disputes and rivalries among the Anuak, Nuer and other ethnic groups, including ‘highlanders.’ It is complicated by the presence in the State of thousands of Nuer refugees from the Sudan.
Oppositions and separatists are probably the major culprits for inter-ethnic clashes. They instigate and fuel incidents and cry foul and human rights violations as a consequence of the incidents. It should be clear that the government has the responsibility to protect the public from harm and suffering brought about by irresponsible oppositions and others. Any harm that may come to the perpetrator(s) cannot be considered human rights violation. On the contrary, it is the perpetrator(s) who should be held accountable for ensuing disturbances, loss of lives and other human rights abuses.
The judicial institutions which are plagued by sever shortage of trained manpower and financial constraints, shortcomings, inefficiency and corruption are among government institutions contributing to human rights violations. The increasing number of college and university graduates, including those from the Ethiopian Civil Service College, is progressively reducing the backlog of court cases and rendering better services. This is a big relief to those whose cases have been collecting dust for lack of adequate qualified and genuine judges. This, the on-going training for judges and prosecutors on human rights issues, the judicial personnel training center that is going to be established and the pending establishment of a national coordinating forum for the justice system organs auger well for the reform of the judiciary, a critical priority area. The young and educated judges, will, hopefully, progressively reduce procrastination and corruption in the judiciary system. The success in increasing the annual court cases dealt with from 26% four years earlier to 95% in 1995 (EC) in Tigray State is an indication of what is already happening elsewhere in this vital government service.
Human rights violations will improve with time. The reasons for this optimism are: the pending establishment of the Human Rights Commission, the execution of the planned training of the police force, the putting into practice of the recent proclamation amending the Federal Police Commission creating “transparent working relations between the federal and state police commissions,” the launching of the Human Rights Center and the National Justice Information Center in the future and the better understanding of the working of democracy by all concerned. There are indications that the government does take actions against human rights violators. According to US Department of State’s human rights report on Ethiopia for year 2003 “Some of the alleged human rights violation by the Ethiopian military, police force and security forces is increasingly being subjected to internal investigation.” Let us not forget that democratic governance, which is a basic requirement for respecting human rights in Ethiopia, is at the experimental stage -- developing and improving.
D: Democracy
During the German Chancellor Gerhard Schroder visit to four African countries (Ethiopia included), German diplomats disclosed that the countries to be visited were chosen for their "anchors of stability" and “peaceful democratic transition.” This is an example of development partners’ endorsement of and support for the practice of democracy and governance in Ethiopia. And yet, the oppositions deny that there is such a thing as democracy in the country and that the leadership does not represent the people. They enumerate the attributes that characterize democracy as in the West. True, for understandable reasons, there is no democracy by American standard which nevertheless, as we all know, itself fails in a number of cases (racial disparity in health care, police racial profiling and brutality, meting out sentences not commensurate with the offenses or crimes, provision of inadequate legal support, torture in Guantánamo Bay, corporate executive scandals, tax shelter abuses, etc.) However, a beginning has been made. In his “The Supermarket and the Starving,” David Plotz asserts the Ethiopian government is “fairly democratic.” In a society of a developing country, particularly Ethiopia where, unlike in other African countries, the modern system of government had been evolving from a feudal system, the democratization process is arduous and time consuming. Oppositions would have us believe it can be a quick-fix and a smooth riding. No, there is no such thing as copy-cat democracy. There is no such thing as instant democratization. There is no such thing as painless transition to democracy in a country like Ethiopia. Introducing democracy in a developing country involves modifying Western democracy to take account of stark realities: socio-political as well as economic conditions, traditions, cultures, etc., which in the case of Ethiopia are as varied as the 87 or so ethnic groups in the country. In Ethiopia, democratization is a process in transition and at a fledgling stage and needs to be nurtured. We should all be mindful of the caveat that there is no such thing as perfect democracy in operation any where in the world leave alone in an emerging democracy which is the case in Ethiopia.
Introducing democracy in Ethiopia means change. Change is frightening for many people, not knowing how it will affect them personally. To expect change to a democratic system to have a smooth ride is naive. It is not surprising that disturbances can occur here and there, engineered by people and organizations who consider democracy is against their interests. For democracy to function at a substantially higher level than now, the concept of democracy will have to crystallize in the minds of the people. The requisite capabilities and capacities need to be developed. The attitude of people and civil servants typified by master-servant kind of people-government relationship has to change. In other words, practicing democratic governance in Ethiopia has begun and is going through a metamorphosis with improving administrative, security and judicial systems characterized by inadequate capacity. In the words of Aurelia Brazeal, the US ambassador to Ethiopia, “ it is clear we see a process here that is still evolving and is incomplete in terms of full democratic development.” This, in a nut shell, is the simple answer to most of the criticisms by the oppositions dealt with in this writing.
In the process of democratization in a society with limited familiarity with democratic concepts, mistakes and wrongs have been and will continue to be made, many of them attributable to civil servants’ lack of the requisite skills, lack of commitment, corruption, and even sabotage. It is an open secret that the bureaucracy is inundated with persons with nostalgia for the previous systems of government. It is not unlikely that many of these persons are ‘killing two birds with one stone,’ i.e., combining sabotage and corruption. Civil servants are not alone in this. Some elements of the public who unlawfully gain benefits and those who still continue to practice the kind of tradition of giving money, gifts, and other favors in order to receive governmental services for which they are entitled render the road to democracy more difficult to negotiate. Time is of the essence. With the finalization of nominations of officials, the Office of Ombudsman is expected to be operational in the near future. Through the performance of its functions the people will get exposure to the workings of democracy; realize that the civil servants are there to serve them; and the people will assert their rights more and more and thereby contribute to better governance and weakening of corruption. The anti-corruption and ethics education program that is being conducted by the Federal Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission will contribute to this. Educating the public in democratic rights and duties and in exercising them should be supplemented by genuine civic socities. The indigenous NGO, the African Initiative for Democratic World Order (AIDWO), is a good example of a civic organization that just does this. The fact that people can and do speak their minds and exercise freedom of speech are indications of some awareness of their democratic rights and duties and that democracy is taking root.
Public support and participation is critical in the fight against corruption. It seems that the public is responding to the government call for support. Public tip-offs during the last six months doubled to 949 compared to the same period last year. This augurs well to achieving substantial reduction in corruption within a short time and thereby enhancing progress in democratization.
Democracy and the culture of exchanging opposing views and political tolerance are being enhanced on many fronts. One of them, in addition to the one above, is through interactions between the government and parties and civic organizations. Meetings between the Prime Minister and other officials with opposition parties, staffs of higher institutions and members of the private press are examples of such interactions. The latest, the first meeting of the UEDF officials with the Prime Minister, seems to be a good start in civilized interactions between the incumbent government and the opposition parties.
As for the oppositions’ claim of lack of legitimacy of the government, the government was voted to power by two consecutive elections. The international and local observers (EHRCO, local UN staff, diplomatic missions, political parties, and domestic NGOs) that monitored the elections testified that the 2000 national elections “generally were free and fair in most areas; however, serious election irregularities occurred in the Southern Region, particularly in Hadiya zone.” This was confirmed by the 2003 United States Country Report on Human Rights Practices in Ethiopia. The irregularities were corrected by holding re-elections. The Norwegian Institute of Human Rights (NIHR) was very critical on the shortcomings of the elections in the South which it attributed to the thesis that “violations are conducted by local people at the lower level of the party.” It said it “had observed several signs of improvement from 1992 and especially in 2000.” Election irregularities do occur even in traditionally democratic countries, as happened in the United States not so long ago. If the Bush administration does represent the American people, why not the Meles administration which won elections with a much higher margin? It should be noted here that the factors that constrain proper management of government administration referred to elsewhere in this article apply to elections as well.
Whether opponents, hatemongers, jealous individuals and groups like it or not, the ruling party (the four-party EPRDF coalition), which directly and through its affiliates represents the whole cross section of the Ethiopian people, is there to stay. There appears to be no viable and sustainable alternative to it. Other alternatives are very likely to result in chaos and the dismantling of Ethiopia. The Ethiopian people who benefited and will increasingly benefit from the process of democratization will not let this happen. It is unlikely that they will go against their interest. Instead they will volunteer to defend their interest as they did to keep Ethiopia’s territorial integrity during the Eritrean aggression.
E: Governance
Governance in Ethiopia based on an emerging democracy enjoys the support of the international community. The latest comes from the German Chancellor Gerhard Schroder. He said "Ethiopian (sic) has become exemplary regarding good governance. It has also opened up to a reform process that we entirely support." In contrast, oppositions deny the existence of any semblance of governance. They ascribe all undesirable happenings in the country to the government. They exaggerate and capitalize on short comings, mistakes, misjudgments, failures, wrongdoings, etc. emanating from governance. The difficult circumstances under which the government operates in this poverty stricken country is of no concern to them. They do not admit the gross inadequacy of human and financial resources to effectively enforce government rules and regulations.
Some of them dwell on such criticisms and misconceptions because of lack of knowledge and experience of what it takes to run a government. Flaring-up of feuds between neighboring tribes/clans and ethnic clashes, particularly between nomadic communities (some manipulated and fueled by oppositions and separatists themselves) are, for example, presented as something unusual, the creation of the present government and the result of ethnic federalism. These incidents are not peculiar to Ethiopia; they have been happening and continue to happen in neighboring countries. With drought, a matter of life and death, there is nothing to prevent pastoralists from crossing borders to grazing and watering areas whether the borders are ethnic borders or not. It is mind boggling to fathom how some even go to the extent of accusing the government of purposely causing the clashes. The same goes with the demonic thinking of government creating religious conflicts when it is very well known that the government is intolerant to religious disturbances. It is worth mentioning here that the Christians-Muslims relationship in Ethiopia has been described “exemplary” by Ethiopian moslems themselves.
In the few cases where interstate boundaries were contested the boundaries were delimited with the intervention of the Council of Federation. In regard to traditional inter- and intra-ethnic conflicts, the government has trained and is in the process of training persons useful in resolving ethnic conflicts through traditional mechanisms in all the states with actual and potential conflicts. At the intra state level, six pastoralist communities in SNNPS “have agreed to resolve conflicts in a sustainable manner” at a conference held last year. This is a good example of the use of traditional mechanisms in a democratic system. It is likely that the same approach will be applied to solve the latest conflict in the Gambella State as well as that between Somalis and Oromos in the east of the country.
The old-fashioned and discriminatory governance by the previous governments are the reasons why some of the states (Somali, Afar, Gambella and Benishangul-Gumuz) have had difficulty administering themselves. Their people’ sparticipation in governance during the previous regimes was limited mainly to lower level posts. As a result, the leaderships lacked the experience and capability to administer and misused resources allocated to them. Despite this, they have made progress thanks to the special attention given to disadvantaged states: a higher proportion of resource allocation, temporary assignment of experienced manpower from other states, use of institutional facilities in other states and capacity building, including training of their civil servants in the Ethiopian Public Service College and other institutions. Bilateral agreements with the neighboring Amhara and Tigrai States to cooperate in executing development projects were recently effected. For the long-term, boarding schools have been opened to encourage, facilitate and ensure students in the pastoral communities to go to school and thereby address regional disparity in education
When vehemently criticizing the government, oppositions do not, of course, talk of the other constraints that the government faces in a very traditional society with deep rooted social and cultural values and norms and very diversified at that. These include: individual destiny predetermined by God; no work done on saints and angels days; unaffordable expenses related to weddings, funerals, etc. (currently steps being taken in Tigray State to drastically reduce and/or eliminate them); tolerating begging (originating in traditional schools where students fed themselves by begging); and wrong attitude of people to work, specially menial work. The last is not acceptable to many people because it does not fall within the traditional nobility/military, clergy or peasantry categorization. These problems are compounded by resistance to change (mainly within the church itself) that the Ethiopian Orthodox Church administration is trying to make related to these and other constraints. Another problem related to tradition is bribe, gifts to officials at every level. Many public servants continue to exploit this tradition. This tradition together with rendering free service has its roots as a form of compensation to officials during the feudal system -- when salaries were unheard of. Is it not apparent that the pace of development, in part at least, depends on the crucial change in the attitude of the people and that it takes time? There is no magic wand for an instantaneous attitudinal change.
They discount and spin the correct justifications for actions taken by the government and misinterpret and twist the matter to serve their own agendas. They do anything and everything to condemn the government and in the process misinform and misdirect the people. For instance, they repeat ad infinitum that 40 university students instead of hooligans were killed in April 2001 riot instigated by the oppositions themselves. They should understand that they are responsible for the consequences, criminal and other undesirable actions taken by individuals and groups, because of their misinformation and misdirection. They have no conscience. What a disgrace!
The latest criticism on governance comes from a research conducted by the Addis Ababa University (AAU) and the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA). The research involved 80 experts and 2,500 households. According to the research, “limited accountability in the government was observed ... the general public in Ethiopia was not convinced that there were sufficient checks and balances among the three branches of the government ... about 45 percent of the experts believed that the appointment of civil servants was rarely governed by merit principles, while another 29 percent mentioned that it was governed by merit principles,” etc. In regard to the appointment, what was the opinion of the balance, 26%? What criteria were used to select the experts and the household samples? How representative were the households samples? What were the compositions of the experts and the household samples in terms of ethnicity, urban/rural area, level of education, social standing, membership in or supporters of oppositions or government, etc.? What was the ECA/AAU experts ratio? What questions were asked and how were they framed? What about citing some analytical numbers, such as margin of error? Inclusion of answers to these and related questions would go a long way to dispel doubts that readers may entertain on the article on the research posted on the Ethiopian Reporter. Similar questions and comments apply to other researches and surveys cited in this writing.
This government, unlike its predecessors, should be given credit for self criticism and ferreting and admitting mistakes and failures. It is among the first 18 African Union member countries that committed themselves to undergo “peer review.” Government officials are humans and to err is human. Those who admit and correct their errors are true leaders. The on-going renewal process is, among other things, designed to minimize repeat of the bad aspect of the past. Gemgema, which is not to the liking of the oppositions and saboteurs, is one of the methods intended to inculcate responsibility on the part of civil servants and monitor their actions. According to the President of the Ethiopia and the Addis Ababa Chambers of Commerce “bureaucracy in governmental offices is significantly improving.” This, coming from the business community, is a good indication of what could be expected -- a higher level of democracy and development despite the oppositions’ obstacles and machinations to thwart progress the country direly needs.
F: Support of the People
We hear and read that the government has no support of the people, that the people do not have confidence in the government, that the people hate the government, that the people do not trust the government, that the people are refusing to fall prey to the scheme of ethnic politics, etc. “The EPRDF-led government blamed for its lack of legitimacy” was the title of an article that recently appeared in the Ethiopian Reporter website. What are the basis for these baseless accusations and lies? Are they based on surveys or polls, such as the unscientific and inherently biased polls that pop up now and then in some websites? How can they make such outrageous and sweeping generalizations in a country like Ethiopia where there are no ways and means to gauge the opinion of the people? Do they refer to the losers, some people in Addis Ababa and some other cities who lost wealth (land and houses) as well as power and all that goes with the latter (benefits, exploitation of the people and undue imposed respect/getoch)? These are persons with vested interest in the old systems who object to the government’s emphasis on “ethnic power-sharing and even employment opportunities.” They are against the equitable sharing of power, wealth, rights and duties by the diversified ethnic groups. These same persons are the ones who ardently oppose affirmative action in Ethiopia but support it in the United States.
These nay sayers label the present government a TPLF/Woyanne minority government as the Eritreans and their government do with a view to fomenting discord among Ethiopians and thereby destabilizing Ethiopia. This, of course, is not true as the ethnic diversity and representation of officials in the coalition government at all levels show. EPRDF and its affiliates, without any doubt, do represent the peoples of Ethiopia, including the minorities, from day one of the rule of this government. It should be recalled that the transitional government was formed based on the charter that was approved by EPRDF and the then anti-Derg oppositions, including exiles in the Diaspora, which EPRDF invited to participate in a national conference. There is no denying that the EPRDF was inclusive from the outset.
From the numerous articles posted on the internet one would conclude that there is a huge force and people’s support out there capable of banishing the incumbent government whose resignation they demand. Most of the writers are individuals, private press and those who claim to have supporters (parties, movements, etc.) have in reality no roots in the populations or negligible following. Although they pretend to, they do not really represent the interest of the people. This is the reason why many of them have been boycotting participation in elections in the past, knowing full well and fearing that they would be exposed for what they are. Their boycotts were excuses for their miserable failures to attract followers. The latest technology, remote control, could only give them virtual reality followers.
By the way, some of the Ethiopians who pretend to support the oppositions in the Diaspora are individuals looking for a short cut to getting green cards or similar documents. Such individuals make outrageous statements against the government and have their pictures taken at rallies organized in opposition of the government to present to the US Immigration and Naturalization Service and the equivalent institutions in other countries as proof that they will be persecuted if they go back to Ethiopia. It is possible that some of the government officials defected for the same purpose using similar tactics. Except for few persons (in single digit) wanted for criminal acts during the Derg regime, there has not been a single Diaspora Ethiopian inconvenienced, detained or imprisoned while visiting Ethiopia. On the contrary, Ethiopians in the Diaspora, unlike Eritreans (see the Testimony of Mr. Mohammed Musa Ibrahim in Awate.com, 03/17/04) and the so-called Amches, are welcomed home without any strings attached. Their political affiliations and their vehement/absurd criticisms against the EPRDF and the government do not matter. Even those with adopted foreign nationalities have the same rights, with very few exceptions, as their brothers and sisters in Ethiopia.
If those opposed to the government are to win followers, which are lacking or are grossly inadequate, even to entitle them to a single seat in the parliament -- specially those in the Diaspora who still maintain their Ethiopian citizenship -- they should come out with realistic and acceptable alternative workable solutions to the problems which form the subject matter of their criticisms. They are incapable of innovating new ideas (except parroting ad infinitum their opposition to ethnic-based federalism and state ownership of land). This is so because most of the relevant issues specific to Ethiopian conditions that could form realistic plans and programs are already appropriately being dealt with by the government. There are elements among them who believe in hereditary rule and are convinced that there is nobody other than their ethnic group that should, could and are capable to rule Ethiopia. They have, for over a decade, been predicting the impending fall of the government, a wishful thinking. They hallucinate the handing over of the administration of Ethiopia to them on a silver platter. They better come down from their ivory towers; face reality; this is the 21st century! There is no way that a single ethnic group could ever dominate the scene of Ethiopian body politics or rule Ethiopia anymore. They should wake up, those days of one ethnic domination over others are gone for ever. They should accept realities for the sake of Ethiopia, if they are genuinely concerned about the country they claim they love.
G: Attacks on the Leadership
Some writers are hate-mongers. They are rude and crude. It is unbecoming of them to resort to insulting, name-calling and demonizing the government and its officials. When criticizing opinions expressed by others they attack the messengers instead of the messages. In the process they end up exposing and discrediting themselves. Some are so vulgar they resort to addressing government officials by “esu” instead of the traditional “esachew.” Bizarre as it is, ‘former terrorists’ is the latest label given to the current leadership by the chairman of EHRCO.
Many slanderous remarks have been made regarding the educational qualifications of the leadership. According to the oppositions, the leadership is not educationally qualified to administer the country. They purposely forget that most of the latter were university students before they joined the liberation fronts. Many of them were awarded degrees from the Open University in the United Kingdom. Others are working for their degrees. The Prime Minister was recently awarded an Honorary Doctorate Degree by a Japanese University. This is the second doctoral award he received. He has non-academic awards and prizes, the latest being the one by the Rotary International. These are achievements many of those who deride the EPRDF officials could probably not have accomplished while administering the country plagued, as is, by myriad of complex problems. In fact, unlike those cyber warriors and oppositions, the government officials are better qualified and fit because of the combination of their experience during the armed struggle and over twelve years in administering the country. They are as dedicated now as they were during the struggle to uplift the well being of the people. None of the oppositions can match the commitment of EPRDF and its affiliates. In view of all these, the leadership, on the contrary, should have been congratulated instead. It is sad to note that the writings of the oppositions, particularly those who hold Ph.Ds, do not reflect the educational sophistication that their degrees are supposed to indicate. They are unprofessional and full of prejudices, lies and exaggerations. Some of them are professors at colleges and universities. One wonders how the schools continue to employ such unprofessional and unscrupulous professors to teach (probably misinform) their students!
The oppositions are so jealous, frustrated and intimidated by the intellectuality, capability and incorruptibility of the Prime Minister that they find it virtually impossible to measure up to him. These impressive qualities of the Prime Minister are well known by the international community, particularly by the Bretton Woods Institutions.The former chief economist of the World Bank, the Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz, for instance, lauded the intellectual attributes of and characterized the Prime Minister as “an impeccably honest man ... with personal integrity.” In their frustrations the oppositions resort to despicable character assassination: name-calling, baseless accusations and outright lies. The following are examples of outrageous statements against the person of the Prime Minister and reflect the nature of the accusers, the pathological liars and persons devoid of conscience who are unashamed to insult the intelligence of the readers:
• ”The Meles regime is deliberately giving a blind eye to the ravaging pandemic, because it is part and parcel of his administration's agenda to see to it that the youth of Ethiopia are extinct.”
• “... he[Meles] tried to fun (sic) hatred between the people of Tigrai and the rest of Ethiopia,...”
• “Meles has passed state secrets, detrimental to Ethiopia’s efforts to dislodge Shaebia from the occupied lands...”
• Ridiculed and dismissed dialogues conducted between the Prime Minister and other high officials and some of the oppositions and civic society (university staff and students, business community, etc.),
• “[Meles] a favorite candidate for the post of ‘World’s Most Evil & Traitorous Man, ...’”
• “Mad or bad, Meles is more menacing than Sadam & Osama.”
• “...[Meles] under great pressure from Shabian leaders and western enemies to systematically divide and destroy Ethiopia.”
• “Meles is the anti-Ethiopia,”
• “Meles is not only genuinely incompetent but also utterly idiotic,”
• “ruthless dictator who is intentionally starving millions of his own people...”
• "Meles is negotiating to sell the Arc to the state of Israel," and
• Meles conspired with the enemy to hurt his people.
Some of the above outrageous statements relate to Eritrea. They go to the extent of accusing him of being an Eritrean agent, implanted to destroy Ethiopia and benefit Eritrea at the expense of Ethiopia. What a horrendous fabrication! Whether they admit it or not the Prime Minister is serving his country with utmost concern and diligence. He is a person who takes action with the future prospect of the country in mind, not for immediate or short-term political gain as the oppositions or for that matter some other heads of government do. His government's policy towards Eritrea and the Eritrean government was forward looking. His intention and motive, it seems, were to undertake activities that could eventually lead to some kind of association between the two countries. Among the strategies he used was to create conducive environment by implementing an exemplary democratic governance and making tangible progress in sustainable political, social and economic development (waging war against poverty, ignorance and backwardness) -- one of the reasons for diverting military expenses to development from day one, immediately following the fall of the derg regime. He, apparently, believed that success in these coupled with maintaining amicable and fraternal relationship with Eritrea could herald closer relationship. That such an approach was leading to some thing in that direction was indicated when, at a press conference in 1996, President Isayas himself hinted at the possibility for confederation. The Eritrean Ambassador in Ethiopia was more specific in stating that political integration was the goal and that “forming an independent state was never the ultimate goal of our long struggle.”
“Meles Zenawi's Uneventful Visit to the UK” and “The Prime Misery Met Humiliation In London” are among the titles of articles that appeared in the internet following the official visit of the Prime Minister to the United Kingdom. The Prime Minister conducted fruitful discussions with Mr. Tony Blair, the Prime Minister, and other high ranking officials of the host country and obtained pledges for substantial assistance. He lectured on “New Partnership for Africa's Development” (NEPAD) at the Royal Institute of International Affairs and met Members of Parliament and leaders of the business community as well as the Ethiopian community. If there was anything that the above titles and their contents have accomplished it is to expose the utter imbecilic nature and avalanche of lies of the authors, to say the least.
Logical reasoning does not seem to work with most of them. They think it works in one sense though. They reason: when something goes wrong in the United States the government official, say the President, concerned resigns; Meles is a government official; Meles should therefore resign because, in their view and which they want us to believe, he is the cause for every thing that goes wrong in Ethiopia. It is, as economists say, comparing apples and oranges. The conditions under which the two leaders work are, to say the least, totally different. The American President has at his disposal and command a democratic system that, for all practical purposes, works smoothly and efficiently. The civil servants working under him are educated, well trained, well compensated and virtually all of them dedicated. They are equipped with and supported by the latest state-of-the-art administrative system and information technology. A good part of the work is simplified and routinized which minimizes misinterpretation and mismanagement.
The situation in Ethiopia is just the opposite. The leadership works under adverse circumstances using inadequate and weak public service. Mostly illiterate (under 60%) population, an economy based on subsistence agriculture, grossly inadequate resources, an evolving system of administration, underpaid civil servants (most of them, especially at the lower level lacking adequate understanding of work and responsibility), high rate of unemployment, sabotage by disgruntled elements, disruptive separatists and oppositions, some traditions and attitudes that work against change, last but not least pervasive and ubiquitous corruption with roots in tradition are among the constraints that any Prime Minister in Ethiopia has to deal with. In the Ethiopian context, since failures, mistakes and wrongdoings could be caused by any or a combination of the above and other factors at different levels of the government hierarchy, it may not be justified to put all the blame on the Prime Minister. Besides, this would definitely involve changing the Prime Minister so often that government administration would be paralyzed because of instability and lack of continuity. In any case, it does not make sense to hold the Prime Minister for responsibility at the same level of that of an American president. This would assume that the government is operating on the basis of an American model and standard which we all know is not. Following strictly the American model does not, obviously, seem and cannot be practical in developing countries, such as Ethiopia, at such an early stage of democratization.
H: Other Criticisms
The criticisms emanating from the oppositions are not limited to those referred to above. Since the oppositions label the government, for their political expediency, as the source of all evils in the country, the criticisms are too numerous to consider here. Samples of the most important additional ones are dealt with below.
Corruption is one of them. There is no denying that there is corruption in Ethiopia. No country in the world is immune from corruption, not even the United States where corporate greed and scandal, for example, seems to be relatively widespread. It is a matter of degree: in some countries it is high; in others it is low; still in others, some where in between. Ethiopia ranked 92nd among 133 countries, the latter figure representing the most corrupt country. In the words of an article in the Addis Tribune titled “Restructuring Addis Ababa’s Management System” “In our country corruption has been systemic and hence difficult to detect and punish.” The oppositions say “in Ethiopia, the only wholly successful modern industry is the theft of cash from businesses, aid funds, government coffers, etc.” To its credit, unlike the previous regimes, the current government is trying to fight corruption and is seeking the involvement and support of the people and religious organizations in its endeavors. To this end, an anti-corruption campaign is in progress. The commendation that Ethiopia received from the United Nations Convention against Corruption for its anti-corruption efforts is proof to the progress already made. The Convention “listed [Ethiopia]as one of the countries that has achieved commendable results in the struggle against corruption.”
A national survey on corruption recently conducted confirmed how pervasive corruption is and proposed that the government “launch the anticorruption campaign more vigorously.” It should be recalled that the former Prime Minister is in prison serving time on corruption charges. Other high ranking government officials and business people have been detained and are undergoing trial. It is bizarre but true that some oppositions are attacking the government for taking action to detain people alleged to be involved in corruption. This is damn if you do damn if you do not. And yet they have the audacity to allege that the current Prime Minister himself is corrupt. Does such a charge make sense? Can they prove it? No doubt, they would have done so had they had the slightest evidence.
The ever devastating and progressively worsening drought engulfing larger areas each time it occurs at shorter intervals (the current one covering up to three consecutive years) and its effect on worsening poverty is blamed on the government. The oppositions would have us believe that the culprit for the disaster is the public landholding. How does the mode of land ownership cause drought? Are they telling us the ever chronic drought could have been averted had land been under private hands? Why are they mute in regard to the phenomenal climatic change which is causing havoc in many parts of the world, including Ethiopia? They disregard the fact that Ethiopia has been suffering from periodic droughts for centuries. And Ethiopia happens to be one of the countries in Africa where the arid area is increasing at a fast rate, thus contributing to the recurring drought occurring at decreasing time intervals and for longer periods. Areas where drought was minimal or absent are now experiencing it. Does not the high rate of increase of population contribute to the deteriorating environmental condition, to the reduction of agricultural productivity and therefore to the vulnerability of the people to drought? In light of these increasing vulnerabilities how ludicrous can the oppositions get! They, apparently, think that such nonsense could advance their politics. Some concerned individuals, both Ethiopians and foreigners, raise the legitimate question why the effect of drought is severe in Ethiopia compared to other countries. The answer includes: high population growth, costly wars and lack of peace for many decades fuelled by separatists and oppositions, governance (which oppositions referr to as ‘bad governance’) evolving from a feudal system, overwhelming land degradation, abject poverty, lack of resources (including lowest donor development assistance) and evolving from a feudal system . Some of these are peculiar to Ethiopia; others apply to other countries but at manageable levels.
Another of the accusations labeled at the EPRDF is private businesses cannot compete with party affiliated companies. The excuse given is that the latter companies benefit from government favors. Ethiopia Amalgamated Ltd. (EAL) could serve as an illustration of this. According to a recent article on the company that was posted on Walta Information Center, it appears that the company has gone through a devastating experience brought about by government institutions. On the other hand, from first hand information, the writer knows a private company which won bids twice competing with party companies. The manager of the company said that he never noticed or experienced the alleged favors. Anyway, to urge Ethiopians to boycott goods and services provided by EPRDF-affiliated companies as well as pressuring company employees to give up their employment is shocking. How can one even conceive the idea of a boycott that could render idle scares resources in one of the poorest countries in the world? Why do some oppositions cry foul when local entrepreneurs or individuals invest in states outside their own? Is it not because of lack of resources that the country has revised its investment code a number of times to attract foreign investment in a highly competitive world? By the way, the New Investment Promotion Program which became operational is expected to encourage and facilitate joint domestic/foreign investment ventures. Already 40 joint venture projects are being promoted with the assistance of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO). A more investor friendly bill aimed at improving the bureaucratic bottlenecks of the Ethiopian Investment Authority, including the provision of one-stop shop service, is pending presentation to the House of Peoples' Representatives. A bill amending the commercial registration and business-licensing proclamation passed by the House of Peoples' Representatives is, among others, intended to promote trade and investment in Ethiopia.
The economic and social consequences of boycotting EPRDF-affiliated companies will obviously and certainly be disastrous. Unlike many African countries the lions share of investment is fortunately owned by Ethiopians. Why does one, in his right mind, want to destroy this situation which is the envy of other African countries? To say the least, it is madness, pure and simple. Another serious consequence is the likely change of the attitude of donors. The good will that the government has established with donors will certainly suffer. The donors will say no assistance to a country which renders its productive and service assets useless. How can donors convince their tax payers to continue to assist the country? It is apparent that the idea of boycott is suicidal for Ethiopia. In any case, if there is truth to the allegation a solution should be found whereby each and every company in the country would have equal chance to compete freely. The development of capital market which could facilitate diversified ownership and cross investment may be one of the solutions.
Boundary with Eritrea is hottest topic of the day nowadays. The oppositions accuse the Prime Minister of losing some land, particularly Badme, to Eritrea (although Ethiopia is reported to have registered net gain, 10%-15% of the disputed land) after a decisive military victory. They seem to be justified in this; apparently something went wrong; it looks that some errors made by the EEBC need to be corrected. The government made efforts to convince the EEBC to correct the errors. After taking time and exhausting its attempts, not acting in haste -- what a responsible government should do -- the Prime Minister by his 19 September letter requested the UN Security Council to help solve the impasse related to the dispute on the border demarcation which he said was in “terminal crisis.” He called for the setting up of an alternative body to rule on the contested areas. Following the EEBC rebuttal the Prime Minister declared the EEBC is “null and void.”
Obviously, on hindsight, because of his earnest desire to turn back to his focus on development, he erred as a human being. He signed the Algiers Peace Agreements and agreed to the inflexible mandates of the Boundary Commission which stipulated boundary decisions to be made on the basis of colonial treaties and applicable international law. So did President Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair erred in respect of the preemptive war on Iraq based on threat of weapons of mass destruction that, so far, proved not to have existed. His government, apparently, assumed that, Ethiopia, as both the victim and victor and as a result of being in a position to impose its conditions on Eritrea to sign the Algiers Agreement, would be rewarded with its claims. Of course, as the Prime Minister he should be held responsible, even if he has been misled by those on his side dealing with the border issue. There is, however, no faultless human being on earth. This being the case, the Prime Minister, or any one else for that matter, including President Bush, should be judged by the net overall achievements, i.e., the positives minus the negatives. In his case, the positives overwhelmingly outweigh the negatives. In any case, why do some of the oppositions go out of their way to embolden the Eritrean government, the EEBC and other external enemies by echoing their blah utterances and making damaging statements supportive of them, some considered crucial to the security of the country? This is in stark contrast to the intensive campaign Eritreans are conducting in the Western World in support of their government in regard to the boundary issue. Obviously, the oppositions are doing this, instead of following the example of the Eriteans, to score cheap political gains, with the full knowledge that what they do and say have grave consequences against the interest of the country. Why are they quite now after having pressured the government not to accept the EEBC ruling? Does not this show that they are deceitful and have no interest in what happens to the country?
One of the complaints incessantly made by Ethiopians on the working of the EEBC was the lack of field visits by members of the Commission. Such kind of a visit was effected with respect to the UN Cameroon-Nigeria Commission in February this year. The mission met with authorities, traditional chiefs and the people in the disputed area. With such a precedent, Ethiopian could, probably, be in a stronger position to demand for similar treatment.
During the Ethio-Eritrean war the government showed maturity and diplomacy by not resorting to foul languages used by the Erirean government and Eritrean writers which still continues unabated. It, however, failed to counter the profusion of propaganda emanating from the Eritrean government and Eritreans, propaganda characterized by lies and exaggerations. As they say ‘action speaks louder.’ This is the strategy the government, apparently, adopted which, on hindsight, proved to be an inappropriate policy and wrongly interpreted as a weakness by the rogue state of Eritrea. It is surprising that the oppositions failed to criticize such policy. They probably did this on purpose. As a result of such government’s weakness and oppositions’ silence, Eritrea garnered undeserved favorable coverage in the world news media during a good part of the war. The world got the wrong impression that Ethiopia was the aggressor and tiny Eritrea, the victim. It is possible that this could have emboldened the Eritrean government to persist in its belligerency and conflict which could have been avoided.
Let us try to be candid. Why are the oppositions piling up all the blames on the present government as if its predecessors had nothing to do with the Eritrean problem. Was not Emperor Menelik who conspired with the Italians and emboldened them to occupy the Ethiopian territory the latter named “Eritrea”? Was not he who was responsible for the legacy of the problematic boundaries? Did not Emperor Haile Sellassie’s government commit blunder after blunder alienating the Eritreans? Was not the goodwill that Eritreans had towards mother Ethiopia squandered? What about the Mengistu regime? Has not its Red Terror alienated the Ethiopian people and its rigid and brutal military solution rendered the Eritrean people to rally behind the EPLF? Did not these make the situation in the country, including the then province of Eritrea, untenable? Did not Mengistu get rid of General Aman Andom (an Eritrean), popular among the armed forces and the then Chairman of the Derg, who was on the verge of finding a peaceful solution to the Eritrean problem? Have not these and his mistreatment and wanton killing of members of the military worsened the fighting spirit and morale of the forcibly conscripted and mostly ill-prepared unwilling to fight militia and soldiers? Was not due to this and the nation-wide lack of support for the Derg regime that rendered many audacious and self-adulating Eritreans to continue to claim that they single-handedly (as if other liberation fronts did not play crucial roles) defeated the largest army in Africa? In a nut shell, the current government, as inheritor, has, unfortunately, to deal with all the mess and complications left behind by all its predecessors.
I: The Private Press
Most of the private press in Ethiopia and radio hosts in the Diaspora are far from being dedicated to informing the public the truth as professionals in the field are expected to do, i.e., respecting the publics’ right to know the truth. On the contrary, they misinform the public. As one of the participants at a meeting of Diplomats on the Issue of the Press put it "it [the press] should never exploit the ignorance of the mass for ulterior motives." This aptly summarizes what the private press should not do but, unfortunately, many of them do. Many of the journalists are or act like tabloid journalists.
Many of them lack in professionalism, ethics and integrity; and lie and fabricate news and information. The Editor-in-chief of the Ethiopian Reporter newspaper not long ago admitted that most of these characterizations apply to some of them. Most of them are biased against the government. Many focus on hate politics and are politically motivated and serve as propaganda machines of and surrogates for the oppositions. Much of whatever they write are highly exaggerated or simple lies. An example of the latter is a report in one of the papers stating that an individual who was jailed in Addis Ababa central prison (Alem Bekagn) was battling against government forces in the Gonder area. Another is a report of the death of the President of Ethiopia. Some times the substance of their writings have no bearing at all with the titles. According to the United Ststes 2003 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices in Ethiopia “much of the private press continued to lack professionalism in its reporting” and “continued to publish inaccurate information, unsubstantiated stories, and harsh antigovernment articles without any official penalty.”
Many of the journalists and editors have no qualifications nor training nor experience. This is the reason for the grant of the government of Norway of US$7 million for the establishment of the School and Center of Journalism and Communication at the Addis Ababa University. According to its Ambassador in Addis Ababa, "The media sector in Ethiopia is hampered by a lack of journalists trained in delivering professional, objective and critical news services."
They invariably focus on criticizing the government; they never, even in passing, mention any achievements where there is so much to report. They may counter by saying they have no access to governmental information. What about the private sector and the many United Nation agencies, NGOs and civic organizations who deal with a myriad of development projects? All of them would be glad to inform the public of their activities through the media. Why are they silent in rgeard to some of the corrupt local NGOs? Even at government level, has any one of them tried to report on institutions, such as the Agricultural Research Institute and similar centers at the state level? The findings of these institutions are already contributing to raising the agricultural productivity of the country, an essential factor that could eventually enable the country to feed itself? The private press could have contributed in popularizing the findings and encouraging their use by farmers.
The journalists do not want to be held accountable for their legal obligations and the misinformation, distortions of facts and lies they spin and disseminate, and the consequences thereof. To give the semblance of credibility to their lies and fabrications many of them cite and quote fictional and anonymous sources, simply referring to them as diplomats, academics, scholars, observers, sources, etc. Understandably, they have, so far, been denied access to some information originating from the government because of irresponsible journalism, including divulging sensitive national security information that could endanger the country. They were, however, permitted to attend government briefings and press confrernces. The press law being revised is likely to give them access to public information at par with those of the government journalists but prevent them from publishing “declarations or information related to subversive groups like the OLF or Al–Ittihad or Al-Qaeda.” According to the Prime Minister the new draft press law “is more or less directly copied from continental [European] press law.” It would be opportune here to note that the government is in the process of drafting the country’s Freedom of Information Act, a bill on the right of the people to information, that would promote transparency and accountability.
Public figure (the Foreign Minister for example) defamation is another area in which many journalists are involved. Defamation is subject to libel suits. Such are the so-called journalists who lament that there is no democracy in Ethiopia forgetting that they themselves are practicing journalism because of it and in the process abusing it. Unlike in the previous regimes, people speak their minds without fear and freely travel abroad (leave and enter the country as they wish).
There have been and continue to be complaints by the media, both in Ethiopia and abroad, about oppression of the private press. It should be pointed out here that the journalists and editors who were imprisoned or fined were the individuals who, in contravention of the law, made statements that could pit nationalities against one another or incite people to get involved in aggressive and destructive activities -- thus jeopardizing the country’s stability and security. Foreign critics fail to understand the need for such law prohibiting inflammatory languages in fledgling democracies. Such critics wrongly expect the West’s copy-cat situation to prevail in developing countries. It is amazing that they blindly condemn the government without ever hinting the need for the journalists to discipline themselves. They do not care about the consequences, including chaos and inter-ethnic and inter-group conflicts by the inflammatory writings. Most of the controversial writings of which only a few were brought to court are written in local languages. It is possible that the foreign critics are not aware of or are misinformed by the private media on the true contents of the controversial articles and writings. The bottom line is the government has the responsibility to maintain law and order, including anticipating and avoiding harmful incidents resulting from irresponsible journalism.
The Government recently halted the operation of the Ethiopian Free Press Journalists’ Association (EFPJA), apparently beset by internal crisis, for failing to meet the legal requirements for its annual registration for three consecutive years. In addition, the maximum period for the elected leadership was overdue. Under such circumstance, the Ministry of Justice claims that it is vested with the responsibility to call the General Assembly of the Association to elect a new executive committee. Accordingly, a new EFPJA leadership was elected at a meeting held on January 18, 2004. The former leadership have taken the Ministry to court, a manifestation that there is democracy in the country which many members of EFPJA deny.
J: Conclusions
What we should all be clear about is that Ethiopia is a developing country, and a least developed and at the bottom of the rung, at that. This being the case, it should have been apparent to the oppositions that there are overwhelming diverse and complex problems hindering progress in the political, social and economic sectors. As shown in this writing, most of the criticisms leveled at the government by the oppositions are lies, fabricated, exaggerated, etc. These criticisms emanate from a limited number of vociferous persons who, strangely enough find time, besides working to earn their living, to churn out a flood of articles. How do they do that? Simple, most of them do not conduct research; they sit down and cook articles, not supported by facts but based on their biases, fabrications and repeated ad infinitum boring allegations. What they seem not to realize is the fact that the country and the system of governance have reached a point of no return. They have made themselves irrelevant and lost credibility and respectability.
Generally, people judge others by what they are themselves. They are guided by ‘what would I have said or done if I were in the shoes of the person(s) being judged.’ It reflects what kind of mind set they have. Some are positive: understanding, sympathetic, supportive and give the person(s) concerned the benefit of the doubt. Others are negative: selfish, jealous, suspicious, unforgiving, revengeful, etc. Apparently, many of the persons in the oppositions fall under the second category. It seems that they have lost their faculty for reasoning. They are very angry having lost power, wealth, integrity and dignity. They are hopeless; no amount of logical reasoning could enable them to see and accept truth and reality.
Some of those in the oppositions are victims of heresy. They have never been to Ethiopia during the rule of the incumbent government. They have been mislead by the diehards who are blinded by their prejudices, jealousies and hunger for power. Their knowledge of the current situation in Ethiopia is based on the oppositions’ versions and therefore one-sided, i.e., biased and based on wrong and deceitful information. Even many of those who visited the country and observed first hand deny of any progress achieved. The exceptions keep quite either to deprive credit to the government or for fear of being labeled traitors, Weyannes, hodamoch, etc. What is surprising is that some of the Diaspora Ethiopians return from visits to Ethiopia with horror stories of poverty as if they have not only seen it but experienced it themselves or their relatives or their friends before emigrating.
As the saying goes, ‘Rome was not built in a day.’ There is no magic wand for creating instant democracy. It takes time for democracy to take root, especially in the diversified traditional Ethiopian society comprising about 87 ethnic groups. Contrary to what the oppositions allege, significant progress has been made in politics, democratization and related areas. Of course, as in other governments anywhere, mistakes have been made. Innocent people have suffered. The oppositions are partly to blame for misinforming and inciting students and others to achieve their agenda. Had it not been for their obstacles the process of democratization and therefore governance and respect for human rights, would have, by now, attained higher levels.
Sustainable peace and stability are essential preconditions for enhancing the democratization process and improving the grinding poverty of the Ethiopian people. Anything that undermines these preconditions cannot and should not be tolerated. Individuals or groups who are guided by and practice ‘the end justifies the means’ and undermine the peace and stability, and therefore the development process that is underway in the country, should be considered enemies of the people and human rights violators. The poor country and people cannot afford further distractions by such elements.
1. This writing will be followed by a companion one on social and economic development.
2. As the reader will have noticed, no bibliography has been included for the simple reason that there are too many references. Those who have been surfing the Ethiopian websites would recognize that most of the data and information were extracted from writings that appeared therein.