‘A blurred message that blends humanitarianism with politics’

Amanuel Zecarias,

Concerning the world governments and  humanitarian agencies response to drought in Ethiopia, UN secretary general Antenio Guterres and UN aid chief Stephen O’Brien in January 29 of 2017 whispered that the international community must ensure ‘total solidarity’ with Ethiopia government as  not only a matter of generosity but also of justice and self interest. This was supposed at 28th summit of AU in Addis Abeba. The UN secretary general also describes Ethiopia as country of the largest refugee hosting country in Africa, with its open border for any cross boundary transactions.  Besides, the head officer also commends Ethiopia as the source of stability in the Horn of Africa and the world community must collaborate in maintaining Ethiopian security for not to be challenged by the surrounding multifaceted chaos sourced from Eritrea, Somalia and South Sudan.

At last, the message of those UN occupants concludes by proposing and by calling the international community to take urgent initiatives to join this global charity move in funding the 2017 Humanitarian Requirement Document which seeks $948 million funds for assisting 5.6 million drought affected people in Ethiopia.

In its humanitarian version, this is a generous message with humanity and touching generosities at its core as a handful portion of the Ethiopian masses have been in destitute situation. This is also a positive move in safeguarding basic human rights and in mobilizing a global risk management strategy. In advance, this action nurtures a culture of humanity, cooperation and interdependence, as on its principles of cultivating a global norm to combat humanitarian challenges. There for, such kind of humanitarian outlooks must be apolitical, non-discriminatory and non-subjective in their content and objective procedures. Despite this is the fact, what the words the UN secretary general precisely tells in regard to the Ethiopian famine(many questioned its existence and concludes it is the TPLF tactic of getting external hard currencies and aid matters) is a mere subjective ones with lucid content and blind partisan positioning alongside the genocidal regime.  Its subliminal content also concretely informs how the one who portrays those words have ‘a very little knowledge about the ongoing political situation and history’ of Ethiopia and its surrounding environs.

   On December 27, 2016, the Ethiopian PM gave pledges that Ethiopia “will register a double digit economic growth in the fiscal year as it is now on the right track of growth, as agriculture, even though challenged by drought, has shown a positive trend of growth.’  The 2017 UN Humanitarian Requirements Document report also claims that in 2016 ‘the Government of Ethiopia allocated more than $735 million to initiate the HRD response and to facilitate a speedy response to additional needs as the situation evolved.’ It also reports, due to a good rain that results for a good harvest, “the number of people that require humanitarian assistance has significantly decreased in 2017 than in 2016.  Then, many critical commentators raise one big question, which says ‘why the EPRDF regime still requests $one billion dollar amount of money to mitigate famine in the starting of this year’.

Principally, states always form, join and remain in international organizations because they perceived as to serve their own national interests. There for, they dedicate themselves in making a system of world governance as much as interdependence becomes a reality but not an option. This is the core reason that derives to make the UN system.  In its idealistic objectives, this institution gives a considerable focus as; ‘to maintain international peace and security’. This is by practicing tolerance and cooperation, developing friendly relations among member states based on the respect of sovereign equality and mutual respect. This inter-state relationship, either friendship or enmities always have a prominent focus with non biased, impartial and mediatory UN roles.

In attaining those objectives, the UN office must run by knowledgeable, efficient and responsive individuals whom have the potential for deriving the universlization of morality in the first place and with non partisan positioning.  If the UN office oversights the ongoing political situations around the globe, and fails to take some timely and relevant actions in concern, the faith that positioned as the watchdog for an international peace and order and its moral, political or legal responsibility could be evaporated overnight. So it needs to be investigative, responsive, informant and non-judgmental.

Concerning the above UN occupant’s message regarding the Ethiopian famine there for, the following questions must need a concrete answer, as many of its content is at odds with the real facts on the ground. First, what is there in Ethiopia? Is that a drought or famine? Second, how dare can Ethiopia be defined as a source of stability in the Horn of Africa? & what are the evidences? Third, Ethiopia is in amoral responsibility of hosting a large number of refugees by opining its border. Is that scenically acceptable? In answering those questions, let us assess the following facts for not to refute the humanitarian move but to give a partial image of the ongoing situation on the ground in that country.

First, famine but not drought plays a central role in Ethiopia throughout history till present and famine in Ethiopia is always man made. In historical literatures, the words of Ethiopia and a famine are two sides of the same coin. They have been abundantly represented the moments of Biblical famine, humiliation and disgrace. Historical portrayals of famine stricken period was there during the reigns of emperor Menelik, Hailse Silasie, Derg regime and most profoundly during the EPRDF era.

From 1885-1892, there was an appalling famine in Ethiopia prior to the upcoming of Italians to Eritrea. By 1890, almost 90% of the cattle were dead. This added with the chronic malnourishment, and the destructive invasions of Locusts and Caterpillars, created an extraordinary horrible situation in human’s record as the words of Martini (Italian governor of Eritrea) illustrates on his recorded memos that was written in that period. In explaining the situation, he stated that ;( quoted by Dawit Weldegergis in his book titled; ‘The Red Tears’)

 “The dead awaited the hyenas, the living awaited death. From a thicket issued a thin murmur of voices… We are accosted for help, and from their death beds suddenly rises a mob of skeleton whose bones can be seen under the taut skin as in the mummified skeleton of Saint….They try to follow as, they also crying out meskin, meskin…I stumble on young boys, searching in the excrement of camels to find a grain of durra. I flee horrified, hiding my watch chain ashamed of the breakfast I had eaten, of the dinner which is awaited me”

This was a time where Ethipian parents sold their chidren as slaves to the Arabs than watching them dying, Cowhides were ground to powder and baked into cakes, horses, dogs and even the carrion eaters themselves were consumed and Cannibalism broke out. It was a horrofiec  time where there was an appailing stories of mothers devauring their children, Lions, Leopards and Hynas became so bold and even entered the largest cities to feed from the dying hunger victims lying in the streets.

What historians witness through their litrary contrubtion was then, the differnece of  emperor Menelik from the following Ethiopian rulers. He  behave with humanity and generousty, opening private granaries, building shelters, encouraged peasnts to use hoe by hand for agricutuer ahead of depending on their oxes. He himself also went into the fields with a hoe to encourage working habits for the Ethipian masses.

During Haile Silsaie reign, from 1973-1973, there was also famine in Ethiopia which resulted deadly proportions as almost 200,000 people were died because the emperors false pride and deliberately ignored the situation for not distorting his political image. Specifically around the Wollo province, denials and contempt were at hand until a British Journalist Jonathan Dimbleby filmed the situation and aired a documentary titled, ‘The unknown famine’ in September 1973. This resulted an overnight loss of faith upon the emperor, who whom private Lions at that moment ordered to eat 18 k.g of meat per day while Children had been dying out of destitution. This added with other factors results to the 1974’s civil war as the emperor ousted and overthrown by the Derg juntas.

During the Derg regime, history used to be repeated itself as, Mengistu which was the chair man of the military council detached himself from a reality, living in his illusions, as there was no place in his own world for famine. As one of his ministers informs him about the reality in the ground at one moment, he replied that;

‘Your primary responsibility is to work forward to our political objectives. Don’t let these petty human problems that always exist in transition period consume you. There was famine in Ethiopia for years before we took power- it was the way nature kept the balance…. So let nature takes its toll, just don’t let it out in the open’.( quoted by Dawit Weldegergis)

The famine in 1984 was difficult to discover by the outside world as no outside reporter could go and report the situation. This was a period where the Mengistu regime was on the bustle of dismantling revolutionary movements across Eritrea( The Red Star Campaign) and in other parts of Ethiopia by diverting two third of its public budgets into military investments. In that moment, the Derg regime was also on the verge of celebrating the 10th annual anniversary of the revolution for self glorification, by budgeting more than 100 million Euros and by importing more than 400,000 Whisky from Britain for the celebrity of the moment, while more than 10 million people were in an earnest need of food aid, whom 70% from the total number were already exterminated.

That famine has greatest spot in human’s record as the whole world never organized and respond jointly to combat some humanitarian challenges as such throughout its history till present. Exclusively, for blacks, it was the moment of shame and humiliation, as the members of the ruling elites in Ethiopia lives in an ostentanous life and celebrity, sometimes declare an emergency decree to dispose food beggars from cites, while thousand dies out of hunger per a single day.

More ever, there were famines in Ethiopia in 1998, 2008, and most profoundly in 2015. One important thing to discuss here is all about Ethiopian resources. Facts prove that, Ethiopia’s resources could nourish as five times greater size than the given number of population at hand. Many also wonders the fact that how in one of the ‘world’s fastest growing economies’ nearly 20 percent of the population is facing chronic famine, year after year. Then the reason that always throws Ethiopian masses in to the narrations of hunger victims is because of the inexistent of visionary, popular and effective political figures whom have a dream of emancipating Ethiopian masses from the tells of hunger victims. Most profoundly, rent seeking, chronic corruptions, maladministration, and nepotism are always there as systemic credentials and certainly, Ethiopian politics always identified itself.

Ethiopia’s resources always hijacked by corrupt, shortsighted and cleptokratic rulers, whom they fundamentally purse their individual and ethnic objectives ahead of the nationalist ones.

Second, a percept that states Ethiopia has been opining its borders for receiving migrants is not convincing for me. Morally speaking, many (additional to the UN secretary general) could be convinced and could entail their appreciation in according. But the true fact is that, Ethiopia in its task to host refugees has two strategic objectives. First, economically speaking, from hosting a large number of refugees have a tremendous profit, as; it prepares the total amounts of food, water, land for rent, shelter and other medical services for the migrants, and then asks to be capitalized by external donors. The money then directly goes to the government. Aside this, the whole job is only reserved to Ethiopian occupants but not the refugees themselves. In the name of those refugees for instance, hundreds of thousands of Ethiopian nationals get entry- visas in western countries through blackmailing the international community.

Hosting migrants is also a lucrative business for Ethiopian security institutions, as most of its members engage in illicit activities of smuggling and trafficking refugees.

The government has been busy in outnumbering refugees for convincing external donors to get maximum cooperatives. European Union for example, budgets some 500 million Euro to help Ethiopia in its way of creating jobs for the refuges. This is a misguided decision ever, as it implies it is a way of standing with a government which is totally at war with its own people. Further, this decision also implies how the western countries realistically engage in pulling migrants by trying to make ‘safe heavens’ despite the fact that they could invest the money in their origins.

Politically speaking, Ethiopian government bustle move to host refugees is of also a ticket-out-of-jail, as the government has been at most war with its own subjects. The EPRDF regime kills, tortures, imprisons, and use Draconian measures for someone who express his/her free wills.  Then, the government which is a government of gross human right violations tactically calculates the game to confuse western donors for not to be scrutinized. This is by pretending as if in a pertinent moral responsibility of hosting refugees.

Third, Ethiopia is not a source of stability in the Horn of Africa. This misguided attitudes that always put Ethiopia as the epicenter of Horn African stability is not true while the reality proves the other way round.  Let as assess Ethiopia’s invasion for Somalia in 2006 for example;

Ethiopia’s unilateral intervention in Mogadishu in December 2006, aiming at eliminating the constructed ‘Alshebab’ threat (a name which was less echoed from 2003-2007 and dramatically designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department in 2008) is reasonably entrenched the above assumptions. This creates then a fragile situation in Somalia as the country becomes the leading member in the list of ‘failed states’ and its people also become the victims of unrelenting humanitarian crises.

Further, Ethiopia’s regional policy also totally contradicts any regional moves of harmonizing regional interests. First, Ethiopia always purses an interventionist strategy for its national objectives and is always in a proper dream of projecting its influences throughout military means. Second, regional organizations such as AU and IGAD are always Ethiopia’s outfits as Somalia and South Sudan peace making process qualifies how those organizations have been entirely used for Ethiopia’s geostrategic interests and subsequently tickets to purse an interventionist polices. Third, Ethiopia is a regional hub for harboring terrorists, opposition groups in regards to destabilizing its surrounding countries.

Suffice it to say, the Algiers Peace Agreement is a final decision by the EEBC in dreaming a lasting peace, stability and security between Ethiopia and Eritrea. Eritrea from the day of the decision fully abides by the EEBC decisions and has been waiting for its enforcement for almost 15 years.  Ethiopia denounces the decision and still is in a presence of occupying Eritrea’s sovereign territories.

In conclusion, the words of the UN occupants also tell cooperating with the EPRDF’s regime is also a matter of justice and self- interest. Are they aware of they are talking about a government which genocides its own masses, declares a state of emergency to undo democratic oppositions, stole election results, tortures, kills, massacres? And do they really investigate and do they have any clue about the drought situation in Ethiopia? The answer is precisely no, as in the first place; the TPLF regime is weponizing the famine issue by over-dramatizing the situation and by trying to show Ethiopia as if  still in the grips of Biblical famine.

This is aimed at receiving hundreds of millions of dollars from external donors as some says, ‘it is a way of profiting and trading on the misery of poor and starving Ethiopian citizens’. At last, the TPLF regime will take the money either to buy wepons or to enrich the ruling class’s pockets.  In 2016 for instance, ethiopia recives more than 1.7 Billion to respond the El,Nino drought. Certainly, no one knows where this big money goes on, either to the victims(surley not as the TPLF still beggs one billion dollar to metigate famine) or to the pockets of the TPLF rulers.

At last, in its conclusion, this article agrees with what prof. Alemayehu G. Mariam recommend in his commentary entitles ‘TrAIDing in Misery: The T-TPLF, its Partners and Famine in Ethiopia’,  puts on and stated that; ‘Starve the wealthy TPLF beast feeding on the Ethiopian body politics, and help feed the starving ethiopian  people.”

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