he difference between HR 2003 and Wuchale Treaty for dummies

By Fekade Shewakena

November 22, 2007
Obviously the TPLF and its cronies have realized that they have no merit based argument to make against the substance contained in HR2003, the Ethiopian Democracy and Accountability Act of 2007, that passed the US House with a unanimous vote and stands pending passage in the Senate. The substance of the bill is clear to anyone who can read it and I know translations of the bill in Ethiopian languages have now percolated to the hands of enthusiastic Ethiopians on the streets who write their Diaspora compatriots to work harder to have the bill become law. Many Ethiopians are waiting to see if America lives up to the ideals it preaches by passing this bill and help them in their fight to restore their humanity and dignity that is being violated with impunity by their brutal rulers.

The TPLF and its cronies could not argue in good faith against this bill that essentially demands respect for basic human rights, such as rights to life and fair justice, which by the way the Ethiopian constitution also claims to uphold, and account for the crimes committed against a sovereign people in full view of the international community. So the only way the TPLF violators of human rights and its cronies can resist the adoption of this bill is by trying to say that the bill says something that it doesn’t. Since it is very difficult to twist the contents of the bill which are starkly clear to anybody with a head on his shoulder, they seem to have chosen to do some gymnastics and twist their own minds to enable them read it upside down and come up with bizarre assertions. Dictatorships always and invariably conflate the national interest and national sovereignty with their own power. Meles Zenawi is now trying to use this same old playbook of authoritarian leaders - when you see your power questioned and threatened, make it look like danger is coming to the country and swear in the name of the people. This has never worked in the past and will definitely not work now.

How can a bill that demands redress for the cold blooded killing of Woyzero Etenesh (the mother who was killed by an agaazi soldier for the simple reason that she demanded to know why her peaceful husband, elected leader of parliament, was being mistreated and dragged by soldiers whose vey job was supposed to be protecting the safety of families like hers? For those of you who have forgotten, Woyzero Etenesh is the mother of Alemzuriash Teshome, that young girl who recounted that agonizing and tearful story of seeing her father dragged to prison by soldiers and her mother being shot and killed in front of her to a Voice of America journalist. Her last word is now seared to the conscience of millions of Ethiopians who listened to her: “people of my country and freedom lovers everywhere “firedugn” (give me justice) was what she said. How about that mother that buried her only two sons in one day? Two young sons killed by the Agaazi in front of their house for the only reason of looking like protestors? Heartless people may also forget that mother that sent the blood drenched exercise books of her little elementary school son killed on a street as he was returning home from school to Meles Zenawi asking him what he would feel if that happened to one of his children?

I heard he didn’t even care to say he is sorry? How can we forget the stories of the barbarism of the agazzi soldier bayoneting multiple individuals in a city where the AIDS epidemic is one of the highest in the world? I haven’t even gone to count the widespread reports of the villages being burned and gun-shipped with their inhabitants in the Ogaden.

The news coming out of the Ogaden region is so ghastly that I don’t know how we will live with it and keep our sanity at the same time. I have never heard rape being used as a weapon against defenseless people by an Ethiopian army anytime in its modern history-not even during the reign of the brutal dergue. I am not even going to touch stories of the atrocities against the Oromo people who are overflowing the prisons in the country and the barbarism being committed against them. These are only snippets of the horrors in our country that the regime has no mouth to contest. Part of HR 2003 is about accounting for these crimes and bringing the killers of the Woyzero Eteneshs of Ethiopia to justice. Nearly everything in the bill is about respecting the rule of law including the law in the books of the regime itself. What has a demand to redress these crimes got to do with the Treaty of Wuchale that occurred before a century during the scramble for Africa? Remember Ato Meles Zenawi’s favorite Song? “What’s love got to do with it” by Tina turner? What’s Wuchale got to do with HR2003? Nothing! Minim! ?

HR2003 and the Wuchale Treaty are as far apart as the sun and the earth and as hard to mix as apples and grenades. The minions of the regime who dare to insult our intelligence by writing piles of garbage on pro TPLF media outlets have yet to pick one statement inside HR2003 and present even a tenuous relationship to their claims of attacking Ethiopia’s sovereignty or the Treaty of Wuchale. The most laughable part of the TPLF rhetoric though, is its temerity to question the patriotism of people who advocate the passage of HR2003. Of all people, Meles Zenawi and the TPLF questioning the patriotism of other Ethiopians! The very people who, among other crimes against Ethiopia, have made the most populous landlocked country on the planet!! Their shamelessness has no bounds.

The only sanction that the bill proposes is for the US government to stop being an accomplice in this blatant violation of human rights and brutality against a sovereign people. By the way, there is a long standing American law that prohibits the use of US military aid to abuse citizens. Actually, the US congressmen who authored the bill are calling for a respect of their own laws and the ideals their country stands on. They are not writing laws for another country nor trying to cheat anybody as the Italians did at Wuchale. Should a conscientious country continue to supply Humvees that roam the Addis Ababa neighborhoods to kill innocent children? Should the US keep supplying ammunition and train sharp shooters who use their skill to kill peaceful demonstrators with impunity? What’s the decision to stop such crimes got to do Wuchale? Some woyane, please tell me! Tell me please, instead of giving me this crap and foolishly trying to use my love of country and nationalism against my people and my own freedom.

What is the meaning of Sovereignty anyway? Whose sovereignty’s violation are we talking about? The sovereignty of the villages we are burning in the Ogaden and the people that are being burned and hanged alive with nooses? What is the crime of our people in the Ogaden except resisting living in marginalization and neglect for ages and demanding a little consultation before their eviction from their grazing land in favor of oil exploring Chinese, who by the way are fast transforming from criminal communism to criminal capitalism?

What is sovereignty to the 193 people killed with impunity on the streets of Addis Ababa and the thousands maimed permanently or the hundreds of peaceful demonstrators in Awassa that were machine gunned in cold blood or that of our Agnuak brothers who were massacred to the last man in Gambella? Is it the sovereignty of the people in Tigrai, a captive population in whose name the TPLF commits its crimes? Whose sovereignty does HR2003 affect? The sovereignty of the rocks? Think about it. What would you say if the Burmese dictators that massacred innocent monks liken our condemnation and sanction against them to attempting to bring back British colonialism? Plain nonsense! The Burmese to their credit did not invoke British colonialism. I have heard them make the same claim like Meles Zenawi’s government. They said the west is interfering in the affairs of their sovereign country and accusing the monks of disrupting peace and tranquility. And by the way, even the Burmese dictators did not kill as many innocent people as Meles Zenawi did in Ethiopia.

The question then is why are the TPLF and its henchmen invoking the Treaty of Wuchale, Minilik’s and Taitu’s name and the battle of Adwa with such intensity when they talk about HR2003. Why then is the TPLF and the shameless self-loving benefit peddlers throw such temper tantrum and spew all these nonsense against this bill which only demands that the regime respect its own constitution and its own laws or forfeit unqualified military and financial support? In fact, why should a beggar government like that of Meles Zenawi’s refuse financial help and grant in millions of dollars to help train its judiciary and build democratic institutions?

Most of us have by now discerned the pattern in TPLF’s propaganda and why both the regime and its beneficiaries resort to such tactics. This one is the least difficult to explain. There are clear explanations in my view for this bizarre, frantic and incoherent gymnastics the TPLF and its cronies are making. First their reaction to the bill is telling of the fact that the regime is unable to argue against the bill based on its own records. The blatant human rights violation and the widespread antidemocratic practices are as difficult to conceal as stealing a camel and trying to hide.

The real character of Meles Zenawi and the gang of men he leads are exposed, particularly after the May 2005 elections. Even some among us who gave them the benefit of the doubt have lost them altogether. The second reason is that the regime is feeling a total rejection by the Ethiopian people. It appears they have done some thinking to the best of their ability and found out that they can sell their protest against HR2003 by wrapping it in our flag and nationalism - hence the invoking of Wuchale, Taitu, Menilik and the battle of Adwa. Meles Zenawi and the rest of his cronies know very well that Ethiopians are patriotic people who love their country. They have the experience of using this patriotism during the war with Eritrea in 1998-2000. Although the Ethiopian people knew very well that the war was simply a case of two friendly thieves whose deal went wrong as they divide their loot, they fought patriotically on their country’s side and died in mass to protect their sovereignty. The only way of hoodwinking the Ethiopian people to support their anti HR2003 case, so they thought, is by trying to present HR2003 as something that is going to affect the country’s independence and sovereignty. That is how they arrived at this crap.

The truth is that HR2003 is good for America and Ethiopia. In fact this is a bill that establishes good and lasting friendship between Ethiopia and the United States. As Congressman Christopher Smith said on the day the bill passed in the House, “it was a good day for Ethiopia and a good day for America”. America lived to its ideals as the beacon of hope for people around the world; the Ethiopian people had their voices heard and their plights recognized.

Obviously, the bill will have to climb uphill to become a law. I am sure there are people in congress or outside, the likes of the supporters of the Mobutus of Africa and that ugly apartheid in South Africa, who will work hard to kill it before it becomes a law. There are many who think Africans are less human and don’t deserve the freedoms they themselves take for granted. Someone recently told me that he heard one American say that Zenawi is a bastard but he is their bastard. Already this so called anti-terrorism thing has turned into a shopping mall for regimes that terrorize their own people. Some TPLF officials and supporters have started arguing that they be let loose and terrorize their people as a credit for fighting so called Islamists in Somalia and as a reward for the dragging of our poor kids on the streets of Mogadishu. We also have people like Vicki Huddleston and Mrs. Frazer who seem to have boundless contempt for our ability to think and understand our own reality in Africa much better than them. I am amazed how Mrs. Huddleston writes that blunt untruth on the New York Times and goes to sleep in peace. Add to this the good lobbyists whose conscience doesn’t bother them when they work for money snatched from the mouths of famine emaciated hungry children.

HR2003 is not law yet. Whatever its fate, it has already hit more than half its target- HR2003 has already become a big political statement on the Ethiopian government. The American people have unanimously spoken through their representatives in their House. They said there is something stinky going on in Zenawi’s palace.

The TPLF would be in a better position if it derives lessons from this exercise before the dark night falls on it. Only absolute fools are unable to see that the Ethiopian community in Diaspora has increasingly become capable of affecting changes in Ethiopia one way or another. On HR2003 it is only flexing its muscle and learning. I have seen myself that more and more Ethiopians and Americans of Ethiopian origin are rolling their sleeves to help end the repression of their people back home. Both the Ethiopian Diaspora, opposition groups in Ethiopia and TPLF itself should better think of finding a common ground to use this growing energy for to change our obscene poverty. Ato Meles Zenawi and his cronies cannot sell anything by questioning our patriotism.

That is not going to work. All indications are that this free ride on anti terrorism bandwagon will also come to an end soon. If we are serious we all have to believe that the future is more important than our past and accept democracy as a tool to lift our country from the abyss. The TPLF should stop lying to itself and living in delusion that it can bring economic change and prosperity in Ethiopia. Real practice and history has shown us that governments cannot build economies or abolish poverty, only free people do.

None of this aid financed limited infrastructural changes are sustainable even if they look mushrooming for the time being. The construction of a few buildings and the increase in the number of substandard universities most of them with more than 70% of their staff first degree holders may show good quantitative statistics, but it is not going to move us out of poverty a bit. If you think this is development, you ain’t seen poverty yet. When we become double the present population size some twenty years later, this obscene poverty is going to get even worse. If we accept democracy and the rule of law, we may not need HR2003 and TPLF and cronies will also spend their time doing some productive thing other than concocting and fabricating lies.