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The Thriving Human Rights Industry in Ethiopia

Ethiopian Human Rights
Source : AA

By Samuel Estefanous

I hate belittling the sanctity of Human Rights and its avowed defenders. Particularly those universally declared and adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations at the very inception and outset of its constitution and mission. 

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights goes in history as one of the few spectacular collective achievements of the human race and I am ever proud our own Country was one among the handful who had participated in the process and which had voted for its adoption.

You know, close to ten members of the UN didn’t at the time. Amanuel Abraham’s memoir gives one a good insight to appreciate the efforts of the Imperial government.  At the time, Ethiopia was an absolute monarchy and the Declaration does pose an affront to the excesses of established autocracies. But the Emperor didn’t want to be counted among countries like Saudi Arabia by joining the ranks of those opposing the adoption of the Rights in the aftermath of the horrors of WWII.

So let this not be taken as a piece lamely trying to disparage the importance of the Declaration or the subsequently adopted Bill of Rights. This isn’t about the inherent validity of Human Rights; rather, it is a neutral reflection on the ‘economics’ and ‘politics’ of human rights as practiced in developing countries. 

1-Czars of Human Rights

I know folks in academia in the West refuse to take Graham Hancock seriously. Some even go so far as accusing him of dabbling in pseudoscience. His patent declaration that he was hooked on drugs and was pretty much ‘stoned’ for the good part of his adult life didn’t help his reputation very much either.

For the good part he was whacked on account of The Sign and Seal, I know here it is a mark of academic distinction and finesse to have read the book but it has been a subject of much ridicule in the West.

But there is one book which enables Hancock to hold his head up and tower above the rest of Western experts of third world politics-Lords of Poverty.

Deservedly it was hailed as an explosive grounding breaking book that had sent shock waves across the “aid industry”- to borrow the words of one of the book reviewers whose piece was published on Foundation for Economic Education (FEE) journal. In the book, the prime beneficiaries of the Aid Industry are identified as local elites in the recipient countries, special interest groups in the donor countries and the aid bureaucracy in both realms. The losers are donor country tax payers, generous private donors and of course the poverty stricken third world ምንዱባን፡፡ 

Hancock published his book around 1989-before the last leg of the third wave of democracy was ushered in. It was written in the wake of the mid 80s famine of biblical proportions that had visited upon the Horn people of East Africa. 

Note that the publication of the book coincides with Huntington’s third wave of democracies that had reached Sub-Saharan Africa following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989. Beginning from the early 1990s the aid industry was effectively being edged out by the Human Rights Industry. No country showcases the transition as Ethiopia does. 

Thanks in large measure to Special Interest Groups in the first world like the National Endowment for Democracy and Soros’ Open Society foundation, the Industry has been making systematic and unprecedented headways deep into our country and the rest of Sub-Saharan Africa. Incidentally, many Ethiopians best minds are familiar with and are grateful beneficiaries of the largesse of both groups. 

Soros is a Hungarian American. Being the ultimate Czar of Human Rights, he had established the Central European University in Budapest yet for some reason he ended up being the most hated person in all of Hungary and the government had no choice but to close the famed University and send him packing- makes one wonder why. But one can easily infer, in the hidden Charter of the foundation, there was something threatening the wellbeing of Hungarian society in the long run.     

2-Beneficiaries of the Noblemaire Principle

In the rest of the World where do the best minds of a given society go after graduation? They join elite research or law firms, they clerk for Senators, they distinguish themselves in academia but Sub-Saharan elite best minds of the social studies stream clog the corridors of UN Agencies and the AU to thrive on the ruins of an unfortunate segment of the human race. 

Who would blame them? I mean owing to the Noblemaire principle they will have a guaranteed king’s ransom for a salary. This way the West makes the crème de crème of third world best minds and intellectuals world class beggars at the very best good only to perfect the higher art of fundraising. Being an employee or ex-employee of one of the UN Agencies or anyone of the armies of international donors or Human Right bodies is an undisputed badge of honor that distinguishes the bearer from the rest of the society. 

3-‘Water water, everywhere water but not a drop to drink’ 

In Ethiopia Human Rights organizations have multiplied to such an extent that they have established a Consortium-a sort of professional guild for human right Czars. However a designated government organ preferably ACSO (Authority for Civil Society Organization) should have its Statute revised and have the power and procedure to review exactly what these organizations have achieved in a given period. 

I know the standard industry defensive term given as a reply to that- እዚህ ጎረቤታችን ኬንያ- there are twice as many if not more; as a matter of fact we aren’t getting a tenth of our fair share of the global human rights and aid fund. 

እዚህ ጎረቤታችን ኬንያ- has got us in to a lot of trouble already. Policy decisions are increasingly being made not so much on knowledgeable studies and bottom up interest and data analysis as on the results of the comparison ‘with our neighbor Kenya with a third of our population’. The Third Generation Universities are veritable testimonies of this blunder. No wonder the government of Ethiopia has recently sworn off not to open any other University in the foreseeable future.

What I am trying to say is the rise in the number of human rights organizations is supposed to be in some kind of “inverse correlation” with human right abuse. But facts on the ground and the variable indicators prove otherwise. On the contrary they are actually positively correlated.

To what extent has the concerted efforts of the organizations kept the abuses down? I mean the more Human Rights activists and organizations we have the more rampant the abuse becomes.

Yeah, it is true, now we have ‘regular reports’ of gruesome abuses being released…

God Bless    

The writer can be reached at : 

Editor’s note : Views in the article do not necessarily reflect the views of


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