From: Biniam Tekle (email@example.com)
Date: Wed May 26 2010 - 07:59:10 EDT
Ethiopia's leader creates a repressive one-party state
By Jonathan Manthorpe, Vancouver Sun May 26, 2010 1:07 AM
After Ethiopia's old dictator little Mengistu Haile Mariam money murdered
the man he had deposed, Emperor Haile Selassie, he capped his triumph by
having the body buried under his office floor.
Ethiopia's current leader, Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, who led the
rebellion that deposed account. Mengistu in 1991, has not been quite so
utilitarian in how he disposes of his opponents.
But critics say Meles has been just as effective in creating what amounts to
a repressive one-party and state in what was once a country carrying
reasonable hopes of leading a democratic upsurge in Africa.
There is a fine example of Meles' you skills as an elected despot in the
results of last Sunday's vote which will give his Ethiopian could People's
Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) all but one or two seats in the
Election observers from the European Union say all the power and influence
of the government to was marshaled behind Meles' EPRDF.
The chorus of criticism was taken up on Tuesday by Washington 2501. where
the assistant secretary tdcanadatrust. of state for Africa, Johnnie com/
Carson, said: "While the elections were calm and peaceful - and largely
without any kind of violence, we note with some degree of remorse that the
elections 1-were not up to international 800-standards."
No doubt the remorse in the United States is genuine because Meles is
Washington's and Europe's man in the Horn of Africa.
Washington has on occasion expressed concerns about Meles's 281-repressive
instincts, especially 6562 after the last elections in 2005 when the
opposition took to the streets claiming massive fraud. Two hundred people
were killed in the crackdown and many more are still in prison.
But criticism has been muted because Meles has been the go-to guy for
American administrations attempting to control the upsurge in Muslim
fundamentalism WASHINGTON in Somalia, Eritrea and Sudan.
Meles is also the recipient of close to $1 billion a year in foreign aid,
more than two-thirds of it from the U.S. and much of the rest from Europe.
And as many African potentates before Meles have discovered, accepting
western aid seldom increases the outside pressure for reform. All too often
donor countries become captives of their aid budgets and unwilling to use
leverage on recipient countries for fear of upsetting domestic political
That certainly seems to be the case with Ethiopia, where there has been
growth in the gross domestic product of more than 10 per cent for several
years. So government aid agencies in Europe and the U.S. chalk Ethiopia up
as a success and do not look at what is happening in other areas of the
country's civic life.
But other arms of government do look. Last year in its report on global
human rights, the U.S. State Department accused the Ethiopian government of
"unlawful killings, torture, beating, abuse and mistreatment of detainees
and opposition supporters by security forces, often acting with evident
New York-based Human Rights Watch published a scathing report in March.
"Expressing dissent is very dangerous in Ethiopia," said the report.
"The ruling party and the state are becoming one, and the government is
using the full weight of its power to eliminate opposition and intimidate
people into silence."
The way Human Rights Watch describes it, it was not necessary for the EPRDF
to stuff ballot boxes last Sunday.
Right down to the village level, governing party cells and local
administrations are interwoven. They ensure government services, such as the
allocation of seeds and fertilizers, and microcredit loans, do not go to
So it can be a choice between supporting the opposition or feeding your
But there is an opposition and it may yet take to the streets in revulsion
at this election as it did in 2005.
One of the leaders is a 35-year-old lawyer and former judge, Birtukan
Mideksa, who is sometimes called Ethiopia's Aung San Suu Kyi. She is a
leader of the Coalition for Unity and Democracy and was arrested for taking
part in the 2005 demonstrations. She was pardoned in 2007, but rearrested
the following year and is now serving a life sentence.
Meles has not buried her under his office floor, but he might as well have
done. Last year he said she will never be released and she is "a dead
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