Stealing elections in Ethiopia casts bad omen over Kenya

By Robele Ababya / Jan 16, 2008
When Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visited Ethiopia last year, public expectations were she would rebuke the dictator, Meles Zeanwi, over his dismal record for violating human rights since he came to power in 1991. Instead, Secretary Rice took everyone one of us by surprise because she denounced HR 2003, the human rights and democracy act that was adopted unanimously by the House of Representatives. Why was Rice opposed to a bill that would only promote human rights, democracy and government accountability, among others?

Obviously, the dictator in control of state power in Addis is also a US partner in the war on terrorism. Rice's condemnation of HR 2003 was then to appease the tyrant who was even condemned by the State Department as one of the foremost violators of human rights. It is therefore a contradiction in terms that she has expressed, in the Ethiopian capital, categorical objection of her administration to HR2003. Time will vindicate the suspicion of most Ethiopians why her administration opposes the Human Rights Bill of which Zenawi is so scared.

Zenawi’s heinous crimes are well known to the international community and documented by human rights organizations. Despite past deeds, the dictator has continued to commit more crimes even after his unprovoked invasion of Somalia, and the brutal crackdown on dissidents and citizens in the Ogaden region of Ethiopia.

The example Mr. Zenawi set for others, that one can steal votes, crack down on the whole country, and stay in power unscathed, was recently emulated by Mwai Kibaki of Kenya, a man who plunged his country into chaos because he wanted to remain in power without the will of the Kenyan people.

Until the elections, Kenya has been envied as an oasis of peace in the region. But now the country is now in the grips of fear and uncertainty as the future hangs between the determination of a man who stole the votes and wants to stay in power by any means possible, and a determined opposition and country that voted for change, and the thief should leave office.

The present calamity in Kenya could have been avoided if the Bush administration had not knowingly sided with Zenawi who had snatched victory by force from peaceful contestants in the historic election of 15 May 2005, subsequently condemning them to jail and pronouncing them guilty of crime punishable by death even before charges were laid against them in his Kangaroo court. Surely, the Bush administration did not show courage to apply sanctions and exert moral authority to stem excesses of human rights abuses Ethiopia. It is amazing that barely a few weeks after Secretary Rice’s visit to the region where she denounced HR2003 in Addis Ababa, Kenya is embroiled in political upheavals that were common in Ethiopia for the past 17 years. The question is for how long double standards would be applied before Africans truly unite to take charge of their own destiny.

Zenawi continues to rule over Ethiopia with an iron fist; he is a landlord in a country where millions of peasants live in slavery in his serfdom; he holds complete control of all pillars of democracy including the judiciary, parliament, electoral board, army, media, lucrative business enterprises (windfall for a former die-hard communist turned multi-millionaire). He is still in power because of stolen popular votes in full view of the Assistant Secretary of State for Africa, Jendayi Frazer, Ambassadors Aurelia Brazeal, and Vicki Huddleston. This is a weird line-up of senior officials in the Department of State impervious to the wailing, agony and grief of mothers of the Ethiopian martyrs of June and November 2005! It is totally unacceptable that Secretary Rice denounced HR2003 in favor of a despot.

The sad saga of political upheavals in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia speak loud and clear of the fiasco of the foreign policy of the Bush administration in the Horn of Africa. Secretary Rice and her senior diplomats in the region have run out of time and initiative to undo the colossal damage.

It is needless to elaborate that the country faces numerous problems of gigantic proportion none of which is amenable to military solution. Experience to date under three consecutive regimes confirms that the Ethiopian peasant did not get value for the stupendous amount of resources spent on military establishments. Ethiopian peasants lived in misery under the yoke of oppression despite sacrificing their children to bear arms and pay taxes to finance military adventures of dictators Mengistu and Zenawi. This spending spree and colossal wastage of resources is sheer madness that has to stop. Progressive forces should as a matter of duty make paradigm shift in favor of unity in diversity

The lesson for us Ethiopians is that we have ignored counting our blessings, concentrating instead on divisive issues that are within our competence to solve through accelerated constructive dialogue. For this reason, outsiders consider us weak and take it for granted that they can say anything against our vital intests, and get away with it scot-free. It is high time we reverse the situation, focus on what unites us more than on what weakens and divides us.

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The writer can be reached at robele_ababya@yahoo.com

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