Why is President Obama Hosting Some African Dictators?

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About to become a lame duck President,  Obama is holding  a roundtable discussion on Africa with African leaders. I guess better late than never. It is scheduled to be held on August 5-6 in Washington D.C. Many of the African leaders bring lots of baggage of crony capitalism, anti-Gay legislation, corruption, abuse of human rights, simply absolute lack of rule of law.

For example, Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn and his party have been in power for the last 23 years, and their legacy is dreadful, as Ethiopia is  ranked the second poorest and second sickest country in the world, where over 70% of the population goes hungry on daily basis. The primary reason for the dreadful situation is government control of the economy. Creeping-famine-in-ethiopia

A young boy waiting  in front of his tukul for his mother as she arrives with a body of his 4-year old dead sister  who died of malnutrition in Shashemene, Ethiopia: Source: NBC: & .Creeping famine-is-back-to-Ethiopia

Like North Korea, the regime controls everything, spies on everybody, at the village level as well as via the Internet, even though less than 1% of the people have  Internet access. Like North Korea, the state controls all the land, telecommunication, Internet, mining, banking, and major industries directly or through cronies. 

In Ethiopia, like in North Korea,  there is no freedom of the press, freedom of assembly,  no free or fair election, no property rights, and simply no rule of law when it comes to the majority of the citizens. The ruling party representing less than 6% of the population like the old Apartheid regime rules through its private and ethnic army and cronies.

African leaders democrats, and dictators like Mr. Desalegn are coming to the USA under the invitation of President Obama for a roundtable discussion on Africa.  It would have been more natural to invite only those countries respecting and applying democratic principles. Furthermore, winning and dinning with African dictators will mean nothing unless President Obama has a concrete plan and he can make it stick.

For example, he can propose a Marshall Plan for Africa like the way Truman did for Europe.  He can prompt  African leaders to spend less on the military, because the armies are primarily used to keep the one party dictatorship, and spend more on education, technology, and economic development.  Adopt a common language, privatize the economy, end corruption, respect human and property rights, rule of law, and form a stronger economic and political union.

Raging ethnic and religious tension are primarily fueled by lack of hope and oppression. The primary culprit for the hopeless situation,  the dictators thrive and survive with U.S. support and largesse.  Some will go by the wayside without massive Western  aid. This gives President Obama tremendous leverage  to promote democratic and economic reform in the continent.  For example,  the rabid anti-Muslim and anti-homosexual  government of Ethiopia lead by  Mr. Desalegn was forced last March by Washington to rescind an anti-homosexual legislation ( Homosexuality-non pardonable) that he orchestrated  through his  rubber-stamped parliament.

The Ethiopian regime pretended for long for things that it is not in order to earn respect and foreign aid. The Ethiopian regime spends huge sums of money  to make sure the West does not notice the cruel and evil system and to portray the regime incorrectly anti-terrorist and democratic.

Azusa Pacific University Board unanimously withdrew  a plan to award an honorary degree  to  Mr. Desalegn on July 31 because of gross human rights violations by his regime (university-withdraws-honor).  In 2003, Texas Southern University canceled a planned event with an Ethiopian government delegation for similar reason.

President Obama can rise to the challenge if he dared too. Pushing democratic values and free market  economic development strategies are critical. President Truman provided a lifeline to a devastated Europe and created strong democratic allies for the U.S. The total cost for the Marshall Plan from 1948-1952 was $13.3 billion.  President Obama has the option to embark on a  similar, bold political and economic agenda for Africa, while opening a huge market three times that of Europe for American businesses.

By Dula Abdu,  dula can be reached at dula06@gmail.com  (article was adopted from previous articles from similar topics).

 

Ethiopia’s future is bleak and Scary

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Ethiopia is the unhealthiest and the second poorest country in the world. Ethiopia the unhealthiest-country in the-world and the second poorest.

This is despite the regime  telling the world that it has ushered the fastest growing economy and plan to meet the Millennium Development  challenge. For the last 20+ years, countries like Singapore, Indonesia, China and many Asian countries were able to transform  their economy because they had a  leadership that put the interest of the people rather maintaining just power. Now a creeping famine is taking a toll mostly among the children.

Creeping-famine-in-ethiopia

A young boy waiting  in front of his tukul for his mother as she arrives with a body of his 4-year older dead sister  who died of malnutrition in Shashemene, Ethiopia: Source: Creeping Famine: Alemayehu G. Mariam. Creeping famine-is-back-to-Ethiopia

Hate to mention it, to get the jest of  the Ethiopian economics, read my piece entitled “Voodoo Economics”.   Ethiopia is the least connected country in Africa in terms of  the Internet, because the regime of Meles Zenawi  denied  the Ethiopian people access to technology, nationalized land, telecom, and other industries that are critical to grow an economy. Thus driving the country to the dark ages economically and socially.

In 1996, knowing the reality of Ethiopia, with the help of the Mickey Leland foundation,  Ethiopia was granted $12 million U.S. dollars to wire with broadband Internet Ethiopian schools to give Ethiopia a leg up and to leapfrog it into a technology driven society to rid off its perennial famine. This opportunity was exceptional because no other country had such undertaking in place due to the infancy of the Internet then.

Meles  and Dawit Yohaness refused the grant because they were afraid the people will use the Internet to organize and overthrow them. Their interest came before the interest of the very survival of Ethiopia. In 2009, we tried to ship a container to supply 15 high schools with computers, the regime again refused to accept it and the Djibouti government ended up confiscating the container.

By deploying  ethnic biased economic policy and governance, the current regime is pushing Ethiopia into a brink of disintegration and the peoples life at risk. With their huge PR machine, they won accolades from Nobel laureates such as Joseph Stiglitz and others for their economic policy despite deploying a very centralized and crony capitalism.  They masked the stats to record a double digit growth and some agencies took the numbers for granted and gave the credit to the regime.

Ethiopia by any definition is no more economically viable and politically stable nation. Even if the current regime relinquishes power,  Ethiopia has little chance of becoming  a viable nation because of many missed opportunities. Subsequent rulers have succeeded in fracturing  it as a nation and degraded its economic viability. Sad to say, the future is bleak and scary. NBC news nightly-news narrates about the creeping and perennial famine.

According to many observers, the streets of Addis are filled with hapless and young prostitutes as young as 12  who are forced to chance the odds of disease and other crimes to just barley put food on the table for their parents.

Jonas Clinton of Canada, a development expert and a visitor to Ethiopia described his feeling as ” sad and confused” because the streets of Addis are literally full of young prostitutes mirroring the poverty that exists in the country and could not reconcile of what he heard of Ethiopia.

Pilot, Hailemedhin Abera Tegegn hijacked his plane to show the world the horrible situation in Ethiopia for Ethiopians. He took the most unimaginable and desperate action  in attempt to tell the world that something is indeed wrong with Ethiopia.

Even Ethiopian who were abused and sometimes rapped by Saudi Arabian Shabab were found to be sad and confused to return to Ethiopia. The question is why feel miserable and scared to return home from such a brutal Arab country.  Because the Woyane Ethiopia is scary , as well as bleak.

The poverty and ethnic conflict in Ethiopia is manmade.  In order to overcome poverty, you need  talented and trusted leadership. Unfortunately, things have progressively gone wrong for Ethiopia to recover from this potential made Armageddon and it may be too late. According to the annual Human Development Report Ethiopia has the second highest percentage of people who are MPI poor in the world,  next to the west African nation of Niger, ranking at the bottom. The MPI measure deprivations across health, education and living standards.   The MPI goes beyond previous international measures of poverty. It is holistic and includes nutrition, child mortality, years of schooling, school attendance, cooking fuel, sanitation, water situation, electricity, floor, assets and more. Government control of the economy and cronyism have a choke-hold on economic activity. Detailed Report just for Ethiopia.

Ethiopians need peace, security  and development. However, it will not have peace and security as long as the regime policy of divide conquer is in place. There will not be development as long as the state or the Woyanes control all the facets of the economy. The wanton killing in Ambo and the arbitrary arrest of journalists are a few examples of a government ran amuck against its own people. Given the current state of conditions, Ethiopia’s future is scary and bleak.

Why are Some African Dictators coming to the USA?

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Many Africans have argued that President Obama so far ignored Africa, while giving a strong attention to the Middle East and other hot spots. Even compared to former President George Bush, so far he has little to show in terms of rhetoric urging reform or concrete action like Bush did to fight AIDs in Africa.

What is bedeviling Africa is poor leadership and dictators. Africa has all the resources to be a politically stable and economically viable continent if it were not for the prevalence of corruption and dictators. Most of the conflicts are orchestrated by leaders or originate due to lack of good governance.

For example, ten of the  poorest countries in the world are located in Sub Sahara Africa according to the latest U.N. report. From South Sudan, Central Africa to Ethiopia, the leaders have been poking ethnic tension in order to stay in power. While the U.S. is expanding its military bases throughout Africa, it finds  it problematic to speak against countries where it has such bases such as Ethiopia. U.S. with 35 or more military command centers in Africa is supporting  strongmen, mostly dictators that the militaries are backing.

There is nothing Obama cannot tell some of the dictators on the phone than dragging them to the White House and giving them undeserved red carpet and photo opportunity. It would have been more natural to invite only those countries respecting and applying democratic principles. Winning and dinning with African dictators will mean nothing unless he has a concrete plan and he can make it stick.

For example, he can propose a Marshall Plan for Africa like the way Truman did for Europe to build roads East to West and North to South and to connect Africa and strengthen academic and civic institutions and to promote good governance. Furthermore,  he can tell them to abolish their national armies, because the armies primarily used to keep the one party dictatorship, and spend the money on education, end government ownership of land, industries, the Internet, and mines to end corruption. Adopt English, French and Swahili as national languages  so that Africans can speak to one another, and form a strong economic and political union like Europe.

President Obama was perceived as a transformational figure in Africa, as well as in the rest of the world. It will be a historical  mistake if he does not take advantage  to transform Africa; most of all help it get rid of its worst enemy,  unelected and murderous dictators and vigorously promote the establishment of democratic foundation and rule of law.

On the other hand, the west is obsessed with fighting terrorism in Africa, but not solving the root cause of terrorism, poverty and hopelessness that is translated into a Jihad. For the west promoting democracy is secondary to fighting terrorism, which is self-defeating, but it goes on. Some forget that  dictatorship and hopelessness are the root causes for terrorism, but most western leaders ignore it at their own peril and continue to spend huge sums of money on barricading themselves, screening, surveillance and drones.

Raging ethnic tension primarily instigated by the divide and conquer policy of ruling oligarchy, combined with corruption and misapplication of resources are slowly sapping the economy and the political viability of the continent.

Currently, besides  political oppression, and ethnic tensions, some regimes have strangled the people and the economy through government ownership of land, Internet, telephone, and other vital industries leading to massive unemployment and massive migration especially in countries like Eritrea and Ethiopia.

Some of the culprits in this case, the dictators, only thrive and survive with U.S. largesse.  Some will go by the wayside without massive Western  aid. This gives the U.S. tremendous leverage  to coerce democratic and economic changes in the continent.  For example, the rabid anti-Muslim and anti-homosexual  government of Ethiopia lead by  Prime Minister, Hailemariam Desalegn was forced by Washington to rescind the anti-homosexual legislation and demonstration  despite  overwhelming  support  by rubber-stamped parliament and the public. Despite the failure of the African Diaspora to take advantage of it, this shows  the power of lobby groups in shaping U.S. foreign policy.

President Obama is threatening sanction against Russia and he thinks he can bring Russia to its knees using a sweeping sanction. If he thinks he has this kind of power against a resource rich and powerful country like Russia, why can  he not use the some power on perpetual beggars and tinhorn dictators in Africa to reform, end the misery, the corruption, and the dictatorship if he really cares.

Ethiopia is the key to democracy in Africa. Ethiopia besides being the seat of the African union, cradle of mankind, carries great historical symbol for  people of African origin. Ethiopia earned this position as one of the longest independent nations, and for repulsing Western colonial occupation. Despite this legacy, Ethiopians have never enjoyed rule of law or fair and free election.

Most African leaders look up to Ethiopia and gather every year in Addis Abeba, Ethiopia. Now representative of warring factions from South Sudan are in Ethiopia to hammer out their differences and to form democratic union. Unfortunately, Ethiopia is not a place to learn or preach democracy or ethnic harmony. The Ethiopian regime pretended for long for things that it is not in order to earn respect and foreign aid.

Human rights records in many African countries are abysmal and are well documented by Amnesty International,  Human rights Watch, and independent media. Some of the African dictators such as the one in Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Sudan, and Eritrea appeared along with North Korean dictator in the Dictators of the Month Magazine. Unfortunately, in Washington leaders like the late Ethiopian dictator, Meles Zenawi were wined and dined, as they disguised their “vicious dictatorship” by ingratiating themselves with the U.S. State Department and by hiring high power lobbyist using the money collected from the impoverished people of Africa. For example, Ethiopia spends huge sums of money  to make sure Washington does not notice the cruel and evil system and to portray the regime incorrectly anti-terrorist and democratic.

President Obama has also to avoid past pitfalls. In his book Out of America: a Black Man Confronts Africa, journalist Keith Richburg rebukes some African-Americans for being too cozy with African dictators who bring untold misery to their own people.

To his credit, George Bush stemmed the tide of AIDs in Africa; Bill Clinton pretended to be the first Black President. On the other hand, there is little to brag about Obama yet, as far as his contribution to the welfare or the transformation of blacks in America or in Africa.

It might be that his hands are tied, but not for lack of empathy. Either way, there will be no legacy for Obama to brag about so far.

President Obama can rise to the challenge if he dared too. Pushing democratic values and freer market  economic development strategies are critical to save the continent. With an investment of $13.3 billion under the Marshall Plan from 1948 to 1952, President Truman provided a lifeline to a devastated Europe and created strong democratic allies for the U.S. President Obama has the option to embark on a bold political and economic agenda for Africa, while opening a huge market three times that of Europe for American businesses.

Dula Abdu,  is a U.S-based writer on foreign policy. (article was adopted from previous articles from similar topics).

Ethiopia is Key to Democracy in S. Sudan & Africa!

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Ethiopia besides being the seat of the African union, cradle of mankind, carries great historical symbol for  people of African origin. Ethiopia earned this position as one of the longest independent nations, and for repulsing Western colonial occupation. Despite this legacy, Ethiopians have never enjoyed rule of law or fair and free election.

Representative of warring factions from South Sudan are in Ethiopia to hammer out their differences and to form democratic union where all different groups can live in peace. Unfortunately, Ethiopia is not a place to teach such lessons. The Ethiopian regime pretended for long for things that it is not in order to earn respect and foreign aid.

In Ethiopia the government perfected the Machiavellian system where ethnic groups are pitted one against another, embraced the bantustanization of Ethiopia, resources are controlled like in North Korea and Cuba by the state, where the state owns land, access to Internet, telecommunication, banking and  all other vital means of production causing many Ethiopian to live a precarious often miserable economic and political existence. Freedom of the press, free assembly, civil societies, and political parties are barley existent or survive at the whims of the regime.

In 2005, the late Meles Zenawi allowed unfettered debate among candidates believing that he was assured of victory, but when the polls started coming, he realized that he was losing in all major cities and in most of the country side except in Tigre, Silte, Hadre regions, so he stopped the countdown and declared victory. When protest erupted  he used deadly force killing over 190 peaceful protesters and arrested hundreds of thousands. The U.S. government and African leaders looked the other way because the sway Ethiopia holds in Africa.  After  Meles emerged unscathed except condemnation by a few representatives in Europe and the U.S.,  leaders in Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Sudan realized that if  Meles can get  away by stealing an election, they can do it too. The Kenyan attempt was bloody, others were less bloody, but the pattern for dynasties or one party apparatus were set in motion. Now some elections in Africa are ceremonial because the winner is predetermined.

Ethiopia holds the key to democracy in Africa. So in order to restore democracy in Africa, Ethiopia as the seat of the OAU has to uphold the rule of law,  respect free and fair election, then the rest of Africa will follow suit. Ethiopia plays a significant leadership role and that role has to include in promoting democracy in the continent. African leaders come to Ethiopia in a regular basis at least once a year and see  Ethiopia’s oppressive system year after year surviving and the West giving a blind eye. So  goes the rest of Africa.

Ethiopia will hold its true place in history not as the physical capital of Africa, or as the cradle of man kind, only when it upholds the rule of law and becomes  a pride for the rest of the oppressed African masses, as it did during pre-colonial Africa. The Obama administration has tremendous power on Ethiopia, a country landlocked and far dependent on aid ill can afford to alienate the West.

All Africans from  Eritrea, Ethiopia and others are yearning for democracy and for American leadership. Unfortunately, leadership has been reactionary only willing to put out fires instead of building a roadmap for democracy for the continent.

Some countries like Ethiopia are exempt from respecting the rule of law despite their repeated defiance. Many African leaders are aspiring to anoint themselves and their children for life whether it is good for the country or whether the people support it or not. The West especially Washington is eager to acquiesce in the name of stability, which in this case is a mirage, because there is no stability without respect for rule of law.

Billions of souls from Third World nations are potential terrorists, unless we end their extreme poverty, oppression and suffering. For Africa, the first place to start is Ethiopia.

Unless other African countries including Ethiopia pledge to hold free and fair election, respect the rule of law and respect the rights of their citizens regardless of their tribe or religion, the leaders of South Sudan may not want to be an exception to the norm. In the long run, for Africa to enjoy peace, stability and economic growth, ethnic and/or one party dictatorship has to be forbidden.  The writer can be reached at  dula06@gmail.com