Western diplomats versus their rhetoric

By Girma Kassa / February 8, 2010
Unity for Democracy and Justice (UDJ) Secretary General Andualem Aragie accused western governments of failing to stand by their rhetoric and support human rights and democracy in Ethiopia. “They are following the old way of doing business. They are partners in development with the Ethiopian government but I don’t think they are partners in freedom and democracy,” Andualem told Jason McLure’s of Bloomberg News recently.

In the report, Gavin Cook, a spokesperson for the British Embassy, said that the UK government has a frank and full dialog with the government of Ethiopia on human rights and democracy including Birtukan.

The former US Ambassador, Donald Yamamotto, and his boss, Johnny Carson, the Assistance Secretary of State for African affairs, had on multiple occasions expressed similar views that Birtukan Mideksa must be freed and conditions for a free and democratic elections must be met.

Particularly with the new Obama Administration Ethiopian Americans and Ethiopians all over the world had a big expectation that the US would re-assess its East African policy and refrain from coddling with dictators that are corrupt, and repressive.

Unfortunately, to the dismay of many of us who supported the Obama campaign with our money and our time, the current US administration has proven itself to be no better than the previous Bush Administration.

US officials are still continuing talking the talk, and promising us that they are for democracy and human rights. In a senate hearing the newly-appointed US Ambassador to Ethiopia, said he will try to convince the EPRDF officials not to hold people simply because they hold opposing political views. "Limitations on political expression and economic activities as well as shortcomings in respect to basic human rights run counter to American principles and risk becoming the seeds of future instability,” he said.

It’s been more than three hundred eight days the popular Ethiopian opposition leader has been incarcerated at the notorious Kaliti Prison on the outskirts of Addis Ababa. From December 2008 to June 2009, Ms Mideksa was brutally placed in solitary confinement, something even serial killers and rapists had not faced. Except for a 30-minute visit by her 75-year-old mother, access was denied to her lawyer, spiritual fathers, friends and relatives. The US and UK know all these very well. However they chose only to “talk”.

Testimonies at Imperial Hotel in Addis were held in the presence of US and UK diplomats. Twenty-five UDJ supporters and members had come from all over the country. Genet Mersha of Yabelo, Sidamo, was fired from her government job she had held for twenty-five years because she rented out one of her houses as a regional office to UDJ. Daniel Welde Gabriel from Mettu Illibabour was arrested and beaten because he refused to stop supporting the UDJ. EPRDF security officers even jailed Mr. Woldegrabriel’s 12-year-old son to intimidate his father. When atrocities such as these are committed by the Zenawi regime, the US and the UK chose to keep quiet.

The latest news is the confirmation hearing of the new US Ambassador. From Ambassador Brazilia to Charge D’Affaires Huddleston, from Ambassador Yamamato to Charge d’Affairs John Yates, be it democratic or republican administration, the US diplomats have been consistent : “Talk about democracy and human rights but support tyranny and corruption."

With this kind of dismal record, one must be naïve and expect changes with the new US Ambassador, Donald Booths. The US will continue coddling with dictators like the Zenawi regime. They will not do anything to get Ms Mideksa released. They will not do anything to make sure that the upcoming 2010 election is relatively free and fair. Should there be irregularities in the election, they will stand by their old friends. It may be hard to swallow but that is the fact; that is the track record.

What is the solution? Well, Ethiopian and Ethiopian Americans should believe in themselves. The solution is to have the “I can do attitude” and prove the doubters wrong.

The writer can be reached at muziky68@yahoo.com