When Julius Caesar fell into the conspiracy of senators in Rome and was stabbed to death, he is said to have uttered that Marcus Brutus hurt him the most -apparently both in the figurative and literal sense. Brutus was close to and had a cordial relationship with Julius Caesar. Apart from being one of the conspirators ,Brutus happened to be the one who stabbed Julius Caesar in the chest/heart (I wonder if the word brutal is coined from Brutus).
Barrack Obama must have caused same feeling to Ethiopian Liberals when he recklessly commented that the Ethiopian government is democratically elected, in way endorsing the 100% election win by the ruling party in Ethiopia. It does not seem to be the case that there is a difference between what Obama said and what he meant. His remark aligns, very well, with the position of his government as it relates to Ethiopia. Months before his visit, undersecretary Wendy Sherman visited Ethiopia and had to say essentially same thing : ‘Ethiopia is a democracy.’ Sherman’s comment was outrageous to many. But again, it was not just her own position. White House press secretary, whose name I don’t remember, confirmed during a presser that Sherman’s remarks on Ethiopian government fully reflects the position of US government. The position of US government aside, it is not disputable at all that the regime in Ethiopia is pure tyranny.
It does not mean, in any way, that the US government is oblivious of what the real situation is like on the ground in Ethiopia when it comes to human rights situation and political space. It is well informed on that. And that is why,in some sense, Obama’s remark sounds rather derogatory to the leadership in Ethiopia. I am pretty sure that the leadership in Ethiopia is not totally foolish to believe that Obama said what he meant in the real sense of the sentence. However, Obama’s remark (US’ position to be precise) might have confused thousands of young Ethiopians with sentiment for liberal ideas and sort of affiliation to the US as they seemed to have taken the US seriously on the basis of its rhetoric about “democracy’ and what not.
Trading ideology for pragmatism
Is appeasing a regime like the one in Ethiopia a means to an end for the US? It seems the case.
US relation with Ethiopia is partly informed by, as is the case with the rest of Africa, the need to respond to expanding Chinese business empire which is likely to have undesirable geostrategic implications for the US if left unchallenged. In light of that, it is not totally naive to ask whether US is trying to be appealing to African states by behaving more like China in Africa.
In fact, it is not unprecedented for the US government to support tyranny when its interest is best served that way. It has happened in Latin America. It has happened in Africa.
And note that US government has a special relation with the regime in Ethiopia since its inception. As such, the regime in Ethiopia is essentially an outcome of US conspiracy against the collapsed military regime.
The emergence of war on terror as a global agenda undoubtedly added impetus to the relationship between US government and the political force it helped to take power in Ethiopia in 1991.
Apparent skepticism towards Ethiopians and why the US government thinks that it can not build a relationship with Ethiopians rather than an ethnocratic minority regime,which turns out to be a liability in terms of what the US claims to be its core values,ideologically speaking, is puzzling to say the least.
Weeks before Obama’s visit to Addis Ababa, the regime released some bloggers from prison. The action caused speculation about release of more prisoners which is not actually what happened. In fact, when bloggers were released last month, they were released in a way that they are tortured mentally. Of the nine bloggers and journalists who were put behind bars for same alleged reason and at the same time, only five were released.And there was no explanation why some remained behind bars while the rest are out of prison.
Barely a week after Obama concluded his trip to Ethiopia, Ethiopian government is back to the business of widespread repression. At this writing, reports emerged that the “democratically elected government in Ethiopia” is imprisoning hundreds of youth in the capital Addis Ababa.
Politically speaking (and economically too for millions), believe it or not Ethiopia is not in a good shape. The experiences of opposition members could partly highlight how bad the situation is. What does it meant that political dissention is virtually impossible? What does it mean when an aging university professor in one of the universities in the US had to abandon academia and well paying career,fairly speaking, only to join rebel forces in the wilderness in Northern Ethiopia? Clearly, it is not a lust for adventure. It is because there is deteriorating condition politically which has a very negative implication for the whole region in the horn and he can’t turn a blind eye to that. The situation is that bad in Ethiopia. And US is a party to repression.