Calling Out the Rogue Regime in Ethiopia
July 8, 2010
On May 3, 2010 on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day, President Obama singled out Ethiopia among the countries that are enemies of free media. The jamming of the Voice of America Amharic broadcast and Deutche Welle radio as well as the new independent Ethiopian Satellite Television (ESAT) attests to this fact.
On July 3rd, Secretary Clinton called out the Zenawi regime as an example of “intolerant governments across the globe “slowly crushing" civil society and the human spirit.”
Such pedigree fits the rogue regime in Ethiopia handsomely. Zenawi has flamboyantly pushed through his rubber-stamp parliament various draconian civil society laws in the run up to the May 2010 election in which his party “won” 99.6% of the votes. The shell game of phony democracy he has been playing for the benefit of his Western benefactors is finally exposed.
Democracy and human rights advocates, including the U.S. Sate Departmenthave widely condemned these so-called laws as a tool used by the Zenawi regime to maintain its stranglehold over both the country’s political arena and civil society in order to thwart the growth of political challengers.
It is often said that democracy is not only about elections. It is about a free press, an independent judiciary and about transparent and accountable institutions and leaders. And, in present day Ethiopia all these are sorely lacking. As a result, Ethiopians are living under an oppressive dictatorship and the country is going down the drain politically, economically and socially. Ethiopia is ranked at a dismal #17 out of 177 countries in the annual Foreign Policy “ Failed States Index”.
It begs the question, then, what tone does President Obama want to see established in Ethiopia and in the volatile Horn of Africa, where the US has vital strategic interests?
For starters, the President has to pressure the Zenawi regime to open the political arena and stop trampling his own constitution to stifle real political competition. The Obama Adminstration needs to veer away from the discredited Cold War policies of favoring stability and support for "friendly tyrants”.
Coddling up to a brutal dictator that is instituting a one party rule in Ethiopia flies in the face of President Obama’s promise of promoting multi party democracy, good governance and respect for the rule of law in Africa.
What is needed now is a loud and clear message from the United States and from The Community of Democracies that the Ethiopian people deserve to live in a free and democratic society where human rights and the rule of law are respected.
President Obama needs to establish an imaginative policy of tying the substantial U.S. foreign aid to political reform in Ethiopia, instead of giving a free pass to a brutal dictator that stands accused of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity against its own citizens.
It is in the vital national interest of the U.S. and the European Union to support a new system of government based on strong democratic institutions. The U.S. and its allies should stand firm and declare that human rights are universal and people should have the same basic right to live in freedom and dignity everywhere in the world. The time has arrived for the West to think, long and hard, and do the right thing.