Wendy Sherman and the Ethiopian “Election” That Isn’t
May 4, 2015
by Alemayehu G. Mariam
The folly of willful ignorance
I did not vote for Ronald Reagan to become U.S. president. But I appreciated some of his witticisms before he became president. In 1964, two years after he dumped the Democrats and joined the Republicans, Reagan astutely noted, “The trouble with our Liberal friends is not that they’re ignorant; it’s just that they know so much that isn’t so.”
That is exactly the trouble with Wendy Sherman, President Barack Obama’s Under Secretary for Political Affairs and the fourth high ranking official in the U.S. Department of State. Wendy Sherman is not that she is ignorant; it is just that she knows so much that isn’t so about Ethiopian politics.
On her recent trip to Ethiopia, a few weeks before the so-called May 24 “election”, Sherman pontificated:
I came from the G-7 meeting in Lubeck, Germany and I was very glad to have a very wide-ranging discussion with the minister [Ethiopian “foreign minister” Tedros Adhanom] not only about the tremendous success here in Ethiopia, all of the development goals that have been met. Ethiopia is one of the fastest growing economies on the African continent. Ethiopia is a democracy that is moving forward in an election that we expect to be free, fair, credible open and inclusive in ways Ethiopia has moved forward in strengthening its democracy every time there is an election. It gets better and better.
We also discussed all of the threats and concerns in the region which was also a major topic of conversation at the G-7 meeting as well. So whether that is strengthening Somalia or dealing with the threat in Ethiopia, everything from Al Shabbab to Boko Haram, Daesh, to of course Al Qaeda and indeed have discussed the reality that here from the Ethiopian perspective as well as concerns about all of those terrorists groups that Ethiopia considers Ginbot 7 a terrorist group as well. The United States believes no group, including Ginbot 7 should attempt to overthrow or speak of overthrowing a democratically elected government. And we look forward to continuing our work with the Ethiopian government to address these concerns in very serious and appropriate ways.
The world is facing a lot these days and Ethiopia is a very strong and growing country; and we want to make sure the stability, peace and the security and growing prosperity continue. And we look forward to our very strong partnership building all the platforms that we need to meet these threats, meet these concerns with all of the seriousness they deserve…
[Responding to a (reporter’s?) question] We think elections are very important…. Voting is important. I urge all Ethiopians to vote on your election day. But I was also glad to be here because in many ways Ethiopia is a young democracy and so every election, just as in our country, should be better and better and more open allowing for freedom of access making sure that every election is fair, free and credible and that opposition groups have the space to participate, that everybody’s vote counts. And in our country we make every election better than the last one in being inclusive, making sure everybody’s rights are respected and we know Ethiopia is working to do that as well.
Just for the record, before Ms. Sherman delivered her torrent of clichés and platitudes about democracy and elections in Ethiopia, she had not bothered to meet with opposition leaders or groups, engage members of the Ethiopian civil society and human rights communities or even drive a few kilometers just outside the capital to visit political prisoners at the Meles Zenawi Prison in Kality.
Of course, there is nothing new in Ms. Sherman’s song and dance about free and fair elections in the 2015 Ethiopian “election” theater stage-managed by the Thugtatorship of the Tigrean People’s Liberation Front. Last September President Obama gave that “election” advance billing, “… the Prime Minister [Hailemariam Desalegn] and the government is going to be organizing elections in Ethiopia this year. I know something about that… And so we’ll have an opportunity to talk about civil society and governance and how we can make sure that Ethiopia’s progress and example can extend to civil society as well…” (Emphasis added.)
Obama’s promised “talk” about civil society and governance” never took place. Sherman said she had “very wide-ranging discussion about the tremendous success here in Ethiopia, all of the development goals that have been met and elections”. Nothing about civil society or governance!
I am still trying to find out what it is that Obama “knows” about the 2015 election; arguably not much about civil society (which has been decimated through the use of the so-called charities and Societies law) or governance (thugtatorship).
In June 2014, Hailemariam Desalegn, the marionette prime minister of Ethiopia, proclaimed electoral perfection for 2015: “Our institutional process and our laws and regulations are perfect. It is not the law that hinders but the implementation of these laws. Therefore, we have put in place the code of conduct of all parties. Strictly abiding by this code of conduct will help the process to be more democratic, free and fair and also credible.” (Emphasis added.) Of course, the “perfect codes” are written and enforced by the T-TPLF.
The U.S. diplomacy of pandering to dictatorship: Hear no evil, see no evil and say no evil about the T-TPLF
Last week, the Washington Post in an editorial virtually denounced Sherman for her willfully ignorant statements about Ethiopia’s “election”.
Ethiopia’s elections, scheduled for May 24, are shaping up to be anything but democratic. A country that has often been held up as a poster child for development has been stifling civic freedoms and systematically cracking down on independent journalism for several years… It was consequently startling to hear the State Department’s undersecretary of state for political affairs, Wendy Sherman, declare during a visit to Addis Ababa on April 16 that ‘Ethiopia is a democracy that is moving forward in an election that we expect to be free, fair and credible.’ The ensuing backlash from Ethiopians and human rights advocates was deserved. (Emphasis added.)
I am not surprised or even disappointed by Sherman’s fawning confession of blind support and categorical defense of the T-TPLF regime and its scheduled “election”. Truth be told, I used to be disgusted by such display of willful ignorance and brown-nosing by American and other Western diplomats; but I have learned to amuse and entertain myself listening to them regurgitating the drivel fed to them by the T-TPLF. I am entertained watching U.S. policy makers, including President Obama, chillin’ out and kickin’ it with the T-TPLF leaders. I like watchin’ Sherman kumbaya-ing, back-pattin’ and fist bumpin’ with T-TPLF head honchos.
I have even trained myself to decipher their cryptic diplomatese spoken with forked-tongue and deconstruct the mindless gibberish uttered by the likes of Wendy Sherman. I have also learned to chew on their indigestible gobbledygook with a whopping spoonful of salt and pepper.
This is not to suggest that I am oblivious of Goethe’s admonition that “there is nothing more frightening that ignorance in action.” Listening to U.S. Undersecretary for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman frightens the hell out of me!
I must confess that after almost a decade of intense study of U.S. policy in Ethiopia (or what is palmed off as one) articulated in a variety of forms — speeches, interviews, cable communications courtesy of Wikileaks, statutory language, statements of high level U.S. officials, including President Obama, formal policy statements, information obtained through Freedom of Information requests, etc., — I am still unable to fathom the mendacity, duplicity and hubris of American diplomats and officials as they proclaim their apostolic faith to the T-TPLF. I have come to the conclusion that the guiding principle in U.S. policy in Ethiopia is this: “No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the Ethiopian people. What is good for the T-TPLF is good for Ethiopia.”
I know the con games American diplomats and policy makers play with T-TPLF leaders. I coined a special word to describe it, “diplocrisy”. I use the term to describe the culture of diplomatic menda-duplicity (the game of shameless mendacity and duplicity, another new word) practiced in Ethiopia by American diplomats and policy makers and to expose to public scrutiny their deliberate and calculated use of double-talk, double-speak and double-dealing in misrepresenting facts in and about Ethiopia and mislead the inattentive international public about what the U.S. is doing and not doing in Ethiopia.
In Sherman-esque menda-duplicty, “Ethiopia is a very strong and growing country… one of the fast growing in Africa… Ethiopia is a young democracy… Ethiopia faces threats… everything from Al Shabbab to Boko Haram, of course… and Al Qaeda… and Ginbot 7…”
All this mumbo jumbo decrypted simply means this: The T-TPLF-is-the-only-savior-of-Ethiopia; without the T-TPLF, Ethiopia will vaporize in civil war. America must help the T-TPLF keep Ethiopia united… blah… blah. Seriously suggesting the T-TPLF is the custodian of Ethiopian unity is like using monkeys to watch your bananas or inviting the fox to guard the hen house.
But Sherman is only the latest proponent of the ridiculous hoax that the T-TPLF is the eternal savior of Ethiopia.
In a Wikileaks cable dated November 6, 2006, former Acting U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia Vicky Huddleston spun a tale of gloom and doom for Ethiopia without the late Meles Zenawi, the Second Coming, and his TPLF apostles:
As I prepare to turn over my responsibilities to my good friend and respected colleague, Ambassador Don Yamamoto, I urge the USG to maintain and strengthen our partnership with Ethiopia. Ethiopia is moving in the right direction — despite the nay-sayers — on democracy, development, and protecting the region from terrorism and radical Islam. If we fail to consolidate and support Ethiopia, we could unwittingly contribute to the break-up of the nation, and fuel a Christian – Muslim conflict in the Horn. (Emphasis added.)
Of course, the late Meles Zenawi himself was the grandmaster of mendacity. He had perfected the art of lying. He invented the myth of T-TPLF-is-the-the-savior-of-Ethiopia. Just like the fable about “double digit growth over the past ten years” is a brilliant figment of Meles’ imagination. Meles had incomparably prodigious skills in transmogrifying pure lies into mega-truths. Meles has been feeding top American policy makers from day 1 the canard about civil war in Ethiopia without his T-TPLF party in the saddle of power in perpetuity. (For an extended analysis of the U.S. diplocrisy and pandering, see my September 2011 commentary, The Diplomacy of Defending Dictatorship.)
It is not that U.S. officials are ignorant or do not know the truth about T-TPLF crimes against humanity and their filthy corruption. The truth is that U.S. officials, like Wendy Sherman, are willing to lie through their teeth to cover up the truth for the purpose of expediency.
In June 2009, in a Wikileaks cable, former U.S. Ambassador Donald Yamamoto was confident, forthright and frank in describing the horrendous political situation in Ethiopia to Deputy Secretary of State Jacob Lew:
Your visit to Ethiopia comes at a time when the Ethiopian Government’s (GoE) growing authoritarianism, intolerance of dissent, and ideological dominance over the economy since 2005 poses a serious threat to domestic stability and U.S. interests. The GoE has come to believe its own anxieties about a fundamental shift in U.S. policy against it. This self-induced crisis of confidence has exacerbated the GoE’s natural tendency of government control over politics, the economy and personal freedoms. To pre-empt retaliation, the GoE has increasingly purged ethnic Oromos, Amharas, and others perceived as not supporting the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) from the military, civil service, and security services…
… The May 2005 elections and their aftermath continue to weigh heavily on Ethiopia’s domestic political scene, and as a result, the government is systematically closing political space in Ethiopia. The U.S. Embassy has taken the lead in advocating for transparent and open national elections in 2010, the next major milestone in Ethiopia’s democratization process… Since 2005, the government has enacted laws which limit and restrict party politics, the media, and civil society… The April 2008 local elections saw the ruling party take over all but three of over three million seats… (Emphasis added.)
Yamamoto was equally frank as he scrupulously advised Lew about what the U.S. should and could do to promote human rights and the rule of law in Ethiopia.
Since 2005, the government has enacted laws which limit and restrict party politics, the media, and civil society… Laws have been passed regulating political financing, access to the press, and ability of civil society organizations (NGOs) to receive funding from foreign sources and participate in the political process… Without significant policy reform to liberalize the economy and allow mounting political dissent to be vented… [there could be] major civil unrest. The United States can induce such a change, but we must act decisively, laying out explicitly our concerns and urging swift action. Because the GoE has enjoyed only growing international assistance and recognition despite its recent record, it currently has no incentive to veer from the current trajectory to which the EPRDF is so committed. If we are to move the GoE, we must be willing to use USG resources (diplomatic, development, and public recognition) to shift the EPRDF’s incentives away from the status quo trajectory…. (Emphasis added.)
Now, Wendy Sherman says the T-TPLF apostles of Meles can walk on water. The fact of the matter is that there is a clear pattern and practice of mendacity and duplicity among top U.S. policy makers in dealing with Ethiopian issues. The use evasive, patronizing, platitudinous, clichéd and obfuscatory diplomatese long predates Sherman. That is just the way of American diplocrisy and menda-duplicty in Ethiopia. Ethiopians must just deal with it!
I think I can deal with American diplocrisy in Ethiopia.
But can I deal with Sherman’s clichés about “free, fair and credible elections,” drivel about “Ethiopia is a young democracy”, platitudes about “voting is important”, double speak about “making every election better than the last one” and blather about the “world that is facing a lot these days”? I must confess that there is a limit to how much horse feathers (I did not say bull feathers) a man can take without barfing! So, I ask myself three questions:
1) Is Sherman saying these things to suck up to the ruling Thugtatorship of the Tigrean People’s Liberation Front to keep them mollified and employed as servile local proxies?
2) Should I insult Sherman’s intelligence by suggesting that she really, truly believes her statement: “Ethiopia is a democracy that is moving forward… Ethiopia is a young democracy… [where] everybody’s rights are respected and we know Ethiopia is working to do that as well.”?
3) Did Sherman say those things mindlessly, as George Orwell might have described it, “to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.”
I shall defer answering the foregoing questions, preferring, in the spirit of charity, to take solace in Dr. Martin Luther King’s admonition (“Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will.”) and move on with the analysis of the facts.
Ethiopia: The “young democracy that is moving forward in an election that we expect to be free, fair, credible…”
Ms. Sherman said “Ethiopia is a young democracy that is moving forward in an election that we expect to be free, fair, credible… Ethiopia has moved forward in strengthening its democracy every time there is an election. It gets better and better with every election better than the last one in being inclusive, making sure everybody’s rights are respected and we know Ethiopia is working to do that as well.” Is this statement really true? Let’s look at the facts.
In May 2010, exactly five years ago to the month, the T-TPLF won the general “election” by “winning” 99.6 percent of the seats in parliament.
The European Union Election Observation Mission- Ethiopia 2010 in its final report stated: “The EU EOM considers that the playing field for the 2010 elections was not sufficiently balanced, leaning in favour of the ruling party in many areas… The electoral process fell short of certain international commitments, notably regarding the transparency of the process and the lack of a level playing field for all contesting parties.”
The EU Mission declined to observe the 2015 “election”.
The White House issued a statement in 2010 expressing “concern that international observers found that the elections fell short of international commitments. We are disappointed that U.S. Embassy officials were denied accreditation and the opportunity to travel outside of the capital on Election Day to observe the voting.”
Johnnie Carson, the Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs in the State Department told the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee that “we note with some degree of remorse that the elections were not up to international standards… The [Ethiopian] government has taken clear and decisive steps that would ensure that it would garner an electoral victory.” Carson added, “We appreciate the level of collaboration that we receive from Ethiopia in a number of areas, but we also believe that Ethiopia must do better in strengthening its democratic institutions.” (Emphasis added.)
What has been done in Ethiopia since 2010 to make “elections better”? Make “elections more inclusive, strengthen democratic institutions and respect the rights of Ethiopians”?
Over the past year, T-TPLF security forces have harassed, threatened and detained leaders and supporters of Ethiopian opposition parties, including leaders of the Semawayi (“Blue”) Party, the Unity for Democracy and Justice (UDJ) Party, and the Arena Tigray Party. Attempts by opposition parties to hold peaceful protests or mass gatherings have been routinely blocked.
Over the past five years, the Ethiopian free press has been decimated. The media remains under the total control of the T-TPLF. Over the past year alone, dozens of journalists, bloggers have been arrested and jailed and others have fled following threats. In August 2014, the owners of six private newspapers were charged with terrorism after a relentless campaign of threats and harassment against their publications. According to the April 27, 2015 report of the Committee to Protect Journalists, the top 5 “worst jailers of journalists worldwide” include, “1. Eritrea. 2. North Korea. 3. Saudi Arabia. 4. Ethiopia. 5. Ajerbajan.” The T-TPLF regime continues to block opposition websites.
Over the past year, the T-TPLF regime has increased significantly its monitoring and recording of telephone calls among friends and family members, including international calls. (Just a bit of advice on decorum to my readers who make international calls to Ethiopia: It is a sign of good manners to politely greet and acknowledge the presence of the eavesdroppers. Whenever you greet them, you will hear a click at the other end. In other words, as soon as you say, “Hello”, they say, “Good bye”. Click!) The T-TPLF has used spyware to monitor and put opposition leaders and others under constant surveillance.
Over the past couple of years, the T-TPLF, with the complicity of the World Bank and others, has implemented a “villagization program” resulting in the displacement of some 1.5 million rural people in Western Ethiopia and elsewhere. The “villagization” program in the Gambella region resulted in the beatings, illegal imprisonment and killings of hundreds of indigenous people.
Over the past couple of years, Ethiopian Muslims peacefully protesting T-TPLF interference in their religious affairs have been brutally suppressed. Today, dozens of young Muslim peaceful protest leaders languish in jail after being arrested on bogus terrorism charges. But they are not forgotten!
Exactly a year ago, dozens of peaceful student and other youthful protesters were gunned down in the streets in Ambo and environs.
In May 2015, youthful bloggers and journalists charged over a year ago with terrorism still languish in jail without trial. Their trial has been adjourned 26 times, most recently on April 8. The police are still gathering evidence to prosecute them. As I demonstrated in my commentary, Corruption in the Ethiopian JUST US Sector, Ethiopia is the only country in the world where a person is accused of a crime, arrested and jailed and the prosecution goes out to look for evidence of a crime by demanding and obtaining endless continuances in court. Now you know why I call it a kangaroo (monkey) court.
To be sure, what former Ambassador Yamamoto said in 2009, a year before the 2010 election in which the T-TPLF won 99.6 percent of the seats in “parliament” is what is happening today in May 2015. The T-TPLF still maintains a chokehold “over politics, the economy and personal freedoms.” The T-TPLF has “systematically closed political space in Ethiopia… Since 2005, the government has enacted laws which limit and restrict party politics, the media, and civil society… The April 2008 local elections saw the ruling party take over all but three of over three million seats…” Back to the future in 2015 for ” free, fair and credible elections”.
Ethiopia “One of the fastest growing economies on the African continent” that is the second poorest country in the world
Ms. Sherman said there has been “tremendous success here in Ethiopia, all of the development goals that have been met. Ethiopia is one of the fastest growing economies on the African continent.” (Emphasis added.)
Just how fast has Ethiopia been growing?
In 2009, Ambassador Yamamoto told Deputy Secretary Lew that the “Ethiopian government” maintained a chokehold on the economy and that its claims of double-digit growth are pure fabrications:
Foreign investment restrictions are widespread, including key sectors such as banking, insurance, and telecommunications. The state-owned Ethiopian Telecommunications Corporation (ETC) is the only service provider in the sector, creating an environment of poor telecom service and access. In a country of nearly 80 million people, there are only 920,000 fixed phone lines, 1.8 million cell phones, and 29,000 internet connections. The GOE maintains a hard line stance on these key sectors…
The GOE publicly touts that Ethiopia has experienced double-digit real GDP growth of over 11 percent in recent years. The GOE predicts real GDP growth of 10 percent this year. Many institutions, including the World Bank and IMF, dispute the GOE’s growth statistics, stating that Ethiopia’s real GDP growth rate will most likely range between six and seven percent this year. (Emphasis added.)
In June 2013, Ambassador Yamamoto was singing a different tune before the Subcommittee on Africa:
Ethiopia ranks among the ten fastest-growing economies in the world, averaging 10 percent GDP growth over the last five years. State-run infrastructure drives much of this growth. Our bilateral trade and investment relationship is limited by investment climate challenges and the lack of market liberalization… Currently about 100 U.S. companies are represented in Ethiopia. Total U.S. exports to Ethiopia in 2012 were $1.29 billion; imports from Ethiopia totaled $183 million. (Emphasis added.)
“What a tangled web we weave when we practice to deceive.”
The Economist Magazine in March 2013 wrote, “The availability of cheap labour has contributed to GDP growth of 5-7%—roughly on a par with what Western economists reckon is Ethiopia’s actual rate, though the official figures are twice as high.” (See also my Huffington Post commentary, “The Voodoo Economics of Meles Zenawi”, for the real story on how the Meles Zenawi and the T-TPLF cooked the books to claim double-digit growth. For a recent update, see my commentary, The World Bank and Ethiopia’s “Growth and Transformation”.) (Emphasis added.)
Ambassador Yamamoto then and Wendy Sherman today both know the T-TPLF’s claim of double-digit economic growth and “fastest growing country on the continent” is a lie, a damned lie and a statislie (lying by statistics). Suffice it to say that I have demonstrated beyond a shadow of doubt that any claim of double-digit growth by the T-TPLF for any time period whatsoever is a BIG LIE. (See my commentary, “The World Bank and Ethiopia’s Growth and Transformation”. )
Here is a simple question for Ms. Sherman: How is it possible for the “tremendously successful Ethiopia that has met all of the development goals and become one of the fastest growing economies on the African continent” to become “one of the most food-insecure countries in the world” and the “second poorest nation in the world”?
According to the 2014 World Food Programme (WFP):
Despite positive advances, Ethiopia remains one of the world’s most food-insecure countries, where approximately one in three people live below the poverty line… 2.7 million Ethiopians will need food assistance in 2014 due to droughts and other short-term shocks… In 2014, WFP Ethiopia plans to assist nearly 6.5 million vulnerable people with food and special nutritional assistance, including school children, farmers, people living with HIV/AIDS, mothers and infants, refugees and many others. (Emphasis added.)
According to 2014 Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHDI) Multidimensional Poverty Index (formerly annual U.N.D.P. Human Poverty Index), for the fourth successive year Ethiopia is ranked as the second poorest country on the planet. In 2010, OPHDI reported that the percentage of the Ethiopian population in “severe poverty” (living on less than USD$1 a day) was 72.3%. In 2014, 82 % of the rural population in Ethiopia struggles “in severe poverty” compared to 18% in the urban areas.
Does it even make sense for Wendy Sherman to talk about “one of the fastest-growing economies” amidst such abject poverty?
Or is Ms. Sherman just talkin’ horse feathers?
Why there can never be free and fair elections in Ethiopia under the T-TPLF
Ms. Sherman proclaimed, “Ethiopia is a democracy that is moving forward in an election that we expect to be free, fair, credible open and inclusive in ways Ethiopia has moved forward in strengthening its democracy every time there is an election. It gets better and better. She bloviated about “elections in her own country” and pontificated that “elections are very important. Voting is important. I urge all Ethiopians to vote on your election day. And in our country we make every election better than the last one in being inclusive…”
I’d love to know on which planet Ms. Sherman spends most of her time when she is not visiting Ethiopia and kumbaya-ing with T-TPLF head honchos.
As the old saying goes, one cannot squeeze blood from turnip. Similarly, one cannot squeeze democracy from dictatorship.
The transition from “bushcraft” to statecraft requires fundamental transformations. Democratic statecraft requires an appreciation, understanding and application of basic democratic principles such as the rule of law, separation of powers, checks and balances and constitutionalism in the governance process.
The T-TPLF leaders have little experience with or practical understanding of such principles. They never had free elections in the bush. So, they don’t know what free elections are. In the bush, they lived under the law of the jungle; once they moved to the city, they upgraded to live under the law of dog-eat-dog. Their ultimate justification for clinging to power is not that they have the consent of the people; it is that they have made “sacrifices in the bush”.
The T-TPLF leaders expect those who oppose them to gain power not through free, fair and credible elections as Ms. Sherman bloviates; they expect their opposition to go in to the bush and fight their way to power. The T-TPLF leaders scoff at civil liberties and civil rights as Western luxuries because they never lived in a system where the powers of government are constitutionally subordinated to the rights of the individual.
As I have said before, it is wishful thinking to expect the kind of statecraft necessary for democratic elections and governance from a gang of hateful ignoramuses from the bush. Once a thug, always a thug! That is just the truth!!!
In commenting on the outcome of the perfect 2010 “elections”, Prof. Tobias Hagmann observed:
The 2010 elections are the culmination of a political strategy, on which the Ethiopian government had embarked after the humiliating 2005 elections. This strategy consisted of both sticks and carrots. The sticks included threats, harassment and imprisonment of opposition politicians and their potential supporters, while the carrots included mass recruitment of new party members and – as new analysis reveals – federal disbursement of funding to districts with a strong opposition showing for appeasement or buying of votes… [The] 99.6 percent result is a very strong indicator that in Ethiopia, democracy is not about people’s rule, but about ruling people… After 20 years in power, EPRDF has not only a de facto monopoly over political representation and decision-making, but also a de facto monopoly over the definition of what democracy means in Ethiopia. (Emphasis added.)
The strategy for winning the 2015 “election” was written in 2010 by Meles Zenawi. For the Obama Administration, elections in Ethiopia are not about people’s rule, it is about legitimizing T-TPLF’s tyrannical rule over the people of Ethiopia.
Ms. Sherman “urges Ethiopians to go out and vote” with almost callow frivolity. She seems to believe that the ritual of going to the polls and depositing a piece of paper for T-TPLF cadres is good enough for the unintelligent Ethiopians. Ms. Sherman pontificated, “We think elections are very important…. Voting is important… And in our country we make every election better than the last one in being inclusive, making sure everybody’s rights are respected and we know Ethiopia is working to do that as well.”
But who is there to vote for? The lesser of the two evils between T-TPLF and the T-TPLF? Jarod Kintz said, “Voting for the lesser of two evils is still voting for evil. Next time, go all out and write in Lucifer on the ballot.”
Is it really “important to vote” for the T-TPLF, the only party on the ballot?
Whenever Sherman returns from the planet where she spends most of her time on, I would like to ask her one simple question: Does she know that before there is a free, fair and credible election, the must be a FREE pre-election environment, FREE political parties, FREE media, FREE political prisoners, FREE civil society and, yes, an Ethiopia FREE of thugtatorship?!
“Ginbot 7, the terrorist organization”
I know little about Ginbot 7. I know of that organization only from sources available in the public domain. However, I have on various occasions condemned the kidnapping and unlawful rendition of Andargachew Tsgie, that organization’s Secretary General in various commentaries.
I want to make one thing crystal clear: I have no political affiliations. I have NO political ambitions! I consider myself an accidental Ethiopian human rights advocate who was transformed literally overnight by the Meles Massacres of 2005 from a completely indifferent, unconcerned and uninvolved Diasporic Ethiopian into a passionate, indefatigable and relentless Ethiopian human rights advocate and speaker of the truth, as I see and feel it.
Ms. Sherman condemns Ginbot 7 as a “terrorist organization” and pledges to support the T-TPLF in its efforts against Ginbot 7. She said she discussed issues with the Ethiopian “foreign minister” “dealing with the threat in Ethiopia, everything from Al Shabbab to Boko Haram, Daesh, to of course Al Qaeda and indeed have discussed the reality that here from the Ethiopian perspective as well as concerns about all of those terrorists groups that Ethiopia considers Ginbot 7 a terrorist group as [as does the United States] well.”
Is Ginbot 7 in the same class and league as Al Shabbab, Boko Haram, Al Qaeda, Daesh (in Libya)? What is the evidence to support Sherman’s allegations?
Sherman produced not a scintilla of evidence to show, suggest or prove Ginbot 7 is a “terrorist” organization.
As I stated above, my knowledge of Ginbot 7 is based on information in the public domain. There is no doubt that Sherman knows vastly more about Ginbot 7 having the services of the massive intelligence community at her beck and call. For that reason alone, she has a moral and legal duty to produce at least a smidgen of evidence, proving, at least suggesting, that Ginbot 7 deserves to be classified with Al Shabbab, Boko Haram, Al Qaeda and whatever else.
What proven criminal “terrorist actions” have been committed (I don’t mean in kangaroo court) by Ginbot 7? What competent evidence is available under American law that Ginbot 7 is a “terrorist” organization?
I have carefully researched the U.S. State Department list of Foreign Terrorist Organization and I have not found Ginbot 7 listed there.
I have researched the Global Terrorism Database, the most authoritative and comprehensive open-source database on terrorism incidents from 1970 to date, used by the U.S. Homeland Security, and there is no Ginbot 7 listed in that database.
I have scoured other databases generally less accessible to the public and have found nothing to suggest Ginbot 7 is a terrorist organization.
It seems to me that if Ms. Sherman actually believes Ginbot 7 is a “terrorist” organization on par with Boko Haram, Al Qaeda and the rest and has sufficient proof, she can single handedly order, as the fourth important U.S. state Department official, the listing of Ginbot 7 on the U.S. Foreign Terrorist Organization List. Pursuant to 8 U.S.C. section 1189 (a) (1), the U.S. Secretary of State is authorized to classify Ginbot 7 as a “foreign terrorist organization “if the Secretary finds that Ginbot 7 is
(A) a foreign organization;
(B) engages in terrorist activity (as defined in section 1182 (a)(3)(B) of this title or terrorism (as defined in section 2656f (d)(2) of title 22), or retains the capability and intent to engage in terrorist activity or terrorism)  ; and
(C) the terrorist activity or terrorism of the organization [Ginbot 7] threatens the security of United States nationals or the national security of the United States.
My simple question is why Ms. Sherman, given her ferocious and scandalous condemnation of Ginbot 7 as a “terrorist” organization, has not acted to place that organization on Foreign Terrorist Organizations List and prosecute its members in the United States and issue warrants for the arrest and extradition of others elsewhere. They say the eyes are the windows to the soul. I say crooked speech and devious talk is a window to the mendacious and duplicitous mind.
Interestingly, in my research, I did find that the Tigrean People’s Liberation Front, with whom Ms. Sherman “looks forward to continuing our work with the Ethiopian government”, is actually on the active terrorist list of the Global Terrorism Database, an open-source database and a Center of Excellence of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. (For a list of specific terrorist acts committed by the TPLF listed in the GTD, CLICK HERE.)
There is further evidence suggesting that the ruling T-TPLF party has and continues to engage in terrorism against Ethiopian citizens. In a report from 2006 marked “Secret; Subject: Ethiopia: Recent Bombings Blamed on Oromos Possibly the Work of GOE [Government of Ethiopia]” “Classified By: Charge [d’Affairs] Vicki Huddleston” (former Acting U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia and referenced above in claiming that there will be civil war in Ethiopia without the T-TPLF), “An embassy source, as well as clandestine reporting, suggests that the bombing may have in fact been the work of the GoE security forces.” (Cable reference id: #06ADDISABABA2708.)
Sherman’s statement that “we look forward to continuing our work with the Ethiopian government” raises manifestly troubling questions about a U.S. official’s continuing criminal enterprise with a terrorist organization listed in a U.S. Homeland Security Department approved database.
I don’t want to sound legalistic but it seems to me that a prima facie case could be made out against Ms. Sherman for flagrant violation of 18 U.S. Code § 2339B in her dealings with a known terrorist organization. That section of the Code provides, “Whoever knowingly provides material support or resources to a foreign terrorist organization, or attempts or conspires to do so, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 15 years, or both, and, if the death of any person results, shall be imprisoned for any term of years or for life.”
There is another important issue that saddens me about Ms. Sherman’s statements. Ms. Sherman, beyond her condemnation and disparagement of the Gibot 7 organization, in my personal opinion, has recklessly slandered every member and supporter of that organization as a “terrorist”. I am informed and believe that there are many U.S. citizens who are either members or supporters of that organization. I believe Ms. Sherman’s comments are devastatingly injurious to their reputations and standing in their communities. In my opinion, her comments are reasonably likely to result in the public ridicule, contempt and disgrace of the members and supporters of that organization for a long time to come.
As a constitutional lawyer, I am deeply troubled and offended by Ms. Sherman’s flagrant trampling of the First Amendment rights to free speech, association and assembly. She declared, “The United States believes no group, including Ginbot 7 should attempt to overthrow or speak of overthrowing a democratically elected government.”
Is Ms. Sherman issuing a censorship edict ex cathedra (by virtue of her office) against any critic of the so-called government of Ethiopia?
Is she threatening Ginbot 7 members or supporters who are U.S. citizens with legal sanctions for advocating the “overthrow of the democratically elected government” in Ethiopia?
Is she saying that an American citizen does not have the right to advocate the “overthrow of the democratically elected government” in Ethiopia?
Ms. Sherman’s ignorance of First Amendment jurisprudence is simply stunning! Ms. Sherman is manifestly unacquainted with the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and appears to be clueless about the jurisprudence undergirding that Amendment.
Perhaps I can enlighten the benighted Ms. Sherman on elementary principles of American constitutional law, particularly the First Amendment.
In the United States, the issue of advocacy of violence to overthrow the government was resolved by the U.S. Supreme Court in Brandenberg v. Ohio (1969) 395 U.S. 444, 447. The Supreme Court held that the notion of punishing mere “advocacy” of the overthrow of the government is a “thoroughly discredited” practice. (Dennis v. United States (1951) 341 U.S. 494, 507 . The Court held its own precedents have “fashioned the principle that the constitutional guarantees of free speech and free press do not permit a State to forbid or proscribe advocacy of the use of force or of law violation except where such advocacy is directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action.” The Supreme Court has also held that advocacy of illegal action at some future time is protected by the First Amendment. (Hess v. Indiana (1973) 414 U.S. 105, 108.) (Emphasis added.)
The operative terms are “imminent” and “likely”. “Imminent” means action which could reasonably be expected to cause death or serious physical harm immediately or before the imminence of such danger can be eliminated by other means. “Likely” means having a high probability of occurring. Combined, the two terms signify the high probability of lawless action occurring immediately, not hours, weeks, months or years later. Is there any question that Ginbot 7 members and supporters who are U.S. citizens have the constitutionally protected right to advocate the overthrow of the so-called Ethiopian government?
Ms. Sherman has no right to abuse her office or hector American citizens by issuing the equivalent of an executive fatwa censoring speech advocating the overthrow of “the democratically elected government” in Ethiopia. She has no legal or constitutional basis to make such an official statement in the form of a policy or policy declaration. How right Goethe is. “There is nothing more frightening than ignorance in action.”
Could Ms. Sherman be in violation of 18 U.S.C. section 241 for her joint statement with the “foreign minister” of Ethiopia in which she implicitly, in my view manifestly, threatened official action against Ginbot 7 members and supporters who are U.S. citizens for their exercise of their constitutional rights under the First Amendment? Section 241 provides, “If two or more persons conspire to injure, oppress, threaten, or intimidate any person in any State, Territory, Commonwealth, Possession, or District in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him by the Constitution or laws of the United States, or because of his having so exercised the same; …They shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years…”
I am not sorry that I sound didactic in my analysis because I believe Ms. Sherman needs to be schooled in elementary principles of American constitutional law.
Perhaps Ms. Sherman also needs schooling in American history. I wonder if she has a clue as to the origin of the following quote:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness… But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.
I will help her out. It comes from an obscure and little-known document called the Declaration of Independence. Unbeknownst to Ms. Sherman, the Declaration is the rock-solid foundation of the very government she claims to serve at such a high level today.
On the need for peaceful change, truth and reconciliation
I personally have no use for violence as a means of political or social change. I abhor violence because it is immoral, ungodly and inhuman. Here is my brief manifesto against violence as a means of political and social change:
1) The consent of the governed can never be secured by violence or force.
2) Those who come to power through violence always, always feel entitled to remain in power because they believe only violence could dislodge them from power. Such has been the logic of the T-TPLF. Meles once said that his T-TPLF fought its way to power and those who seek political power should go into the bush and fight their way into power. I find it curious why the T-TPLF is bent out of shape when its invitation for a violent overthrow is accepted by some!
3) Change brought by violence is not durable or long-lasting.
4) More violence must be used by those who used violence to get power to remain in power.
5) Violence always begets violence and becomes the fountainhead of hate. Dr. King said, “The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy, instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate.”
6) Violence is nothing more than the politics of bloodshed. Political change obtained by bloodshed will demand more bloodshed to maintain.
7) Organized violence often turns into civil wars resulting in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent children, women, the old, poor and defenseless. Ethnic, sectarian and political violence has cost the lives of millions of innocent and defenseless Africans and made Africa the most dangerous place on the planet to live.
7) Beating, torturing and killing people is the wrong way to win their hearts and minds.
8) I believe in the Scriptural truth that “for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.”
Is there ever a justification for violence? Mahatma Gandhi said, “I would risk violence a thousand times rather than risk the emasculation of a whole race. I do believe that, where there is only a choice between cowardice and violence, I would advise violence… I would rather have India resort to arms in order to defend her honour than that she should, in a cowardly manner, become or remain a helpless witness to her own dishonor.”
I don’t believe in violence but I believe in waging battles for hearts and minds. When I began my Ethiopian human rights advocacy in earnest back in 2006 after the Meles Massacres, I made it clear that my human rights struggle was going to be for hearts and minds. At the time, I gave a very long speech explaining why a struggle for hearts and minds of all Ethiopians to transcend the politics of ethnicity, hate and sectarianism is necessary. For the past nine years, I have tried to do just that by speaking truth to power and those who abuse and misuse power.
I believe in the clash of ideas and battle of ideas for ideals. I believe in using the sword of truth to slay the dragons of lies. I also believe there are rules of engagement in the struggle for hearts and minds: Facts, logic, civility, good faith and good will.
In the final analysis, I believe in truth and conciliation. I believe in fighting to defend the truth as I see it, feel it and believe it. “Even if you are a minority of one, the truth is the truth,” said Gandhi. The truth must be told and understood before seeking ways to move forward making sure the mistakes of the past are never repeated.
It’s all about legitimizing the May 2015 “election”, “keeping truth on the scaffold and wrong on the throne”
Wendy Sherman’s song and dance about the “young Ethiopian democracy” and the rest of her blather is all about legitimizing the bogus May 2015 election. Let there be no mistake: The guiding principle for the Obama Administration in Ethiopia is this: “No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the Ethiopian people . What is good for the T-TPLF is good for Ethiopia!” I hate to say it but the Obama Administration truly believes Ethiopians are as dumb as a box of rocks.
One of the most rewarding things about being a human rights advocate is that one can tell the unvarnished truth and let the chips fall where they may. I like the old Ethiopian saying, “It is better to tell the truth and stay over for the night wherever it might be.”
Wendy Sherman is the face of Barack Obama in Ethiopia. When she speaks, she speaks for Barack Obama. When she says, “Ethiopia is a democracy”, she speaks for Barack Obama!
What do I think about Barack Obama? Must you really ask?
I have completely given up on Barack Obama. I don’t like to admit it publicly but some of my friends snicker at me for supporting Barack Obama to the hilt when he ran for President twice and while in office for making excuses for him. Yes, I believed (convinced myself to believe) he would really do something to improve human rights in Africa, not just Ethiopia. Yes, I did swallow hook, line and sinker Obama’s baloney in Accra, Ghana about “African needs strong institutions, not strongmen. Right side of history and all the rest ”. I tried to explain (defend) why I supported Obama from the beginning in my commentary, “Shame On Me For Being Proud of President Obama!” I believe it was President George Bush (43) who said, “I know it’s in Texas, probably in Tennessee that says, ‘Fool me once, shame on … shame on you. Fool me… You can’t get fooled again!” You know what I mean.
I have to admit that I still like one of the things Obama said in his campaign in 2008. It is so applicable to the 2015 Ethiopian “election”. Obama said, “You can put lipstick on a pig, but at the end of the day, it is still a pig. You can wrap an old fish in a piece of paper called ‘change. It’s still gonna stink after eight years.”
I say Wendy Sherman can put lipstick on the T-TPLF and call it a “young democracy”. She can put make-up on the T-TPLF and call it a “strong partner”. But at the end of the day, the designer-suited TPLF thugs masquerading as “young democrats” and “strong partners” are still thugs. You can wrap an old fish in a piece of paper called “young democracy” but after 25 years it’s still gonna stink.
So, after all, Obama and I agree on some things, pigs and thugs!
Wendy Sherman should know only two questions determine the outcome of the 2015 “election”: Are the people of Ethiopia better off today than they were in 2010, in 2005? Do they eat three meals a day? Meles Zenawi said the ultimate indicator of his success and legacy will be whether Ethiopians eat three meals a day!
I have no problems with Ms. Sherman’s passionate and ferocious defense of the T-TPLF. Her body language speaks volumes for her commitment to the T-TPLF cause. Her tonality shows total devotion to the T-TPLF.
I admire passion in a cause. I believe passion tempered by facts and logic is the most important and potent weapon in the battle for hearts and minds. Just as Sherman is passionate in her defense of the T-TPLF, I am equally passionate in my opposition to the T-TPLF’s gross human rights abuses, its decimation of civil society, incarceration of journalists and closing of all political space.
I am grateful to Wendy Sherman. She gave me an opportunity to passionately engage her, and indirectly her T-TPLF minions, in the battle for the truth and the hearts and minds of the Ethiopian people. I have not rested my case in my cause. As a defense lawyer, I know the defense never rests. But I will submit the issue of who is on the right side of history to the judgment of Ethiopian people.
Wendy Sherman says “Ethiopia is a young democracy”. I say Ethiopia is under the thumbs and boots of a long-in-the-tooth thugtatorship. Let the people of Ethiopia render a verdict on this question.
Wendy Sherman says, the U.S. “looks forward to continuing our work with the Ethiopian government and our very strong partnership” with the “Ethiopian government”. I say the Obama Administration is on the wrong side of history for making a partnership and continuing to work with the T-TPLF.
Let history render a verdict on who was on the right side of history when history itself hanged and dangled from the scaffold of Obama diplocrisy.
Ms. Sherman and the Obama Administration can coddle a hardened thugtatorship and call it a “young democracy”. The people of Ethiopia know “nothing is better than listening to a lie when you already know the truth.”
We are now engaged in the battle for the hearts and minds of the Ethiopian people and the destiny and soul of Ethiopia with Obama and his T-TPLF minions on one side and the rest of Ethiopians on the right side of history. Victory in the end will be on the side of those on the right side of history because “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice”; because truth will not forever remain on the scaffold nor wrong forever ensconced on the throne. In James R. Lowell’s verse in “The Crisis” :
Once to every man and nation comes the moment to decide,
In the strife of Truth with Falsehood, for the good or evil side;
Careless seems the great Avenger; history’s pages but record
Truth forever on the scaffold, Wrong forever on the throne,—
Yet that scaffold sways the future, and, behind the dim unknown,
Standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above his own.
Can’t wait to hear what Wendy Sherman has to say on May 25, 2015
Joseph Stalin said, “The people who cast the votes don’t decide an election, the people who count the votes do.” Stalin was wrong.
There are some in high positions in the U.S. Government, including Wendy Sherman, who believe they are the ones who decide the “election” scheduled for May 24, 2015. They are actually right; and they have already declared and anointed the winner of the 2015 “election” in the “young Ethiopian democracy”. No surprise there.
I am just waiting to read the heartfelt congratulatory statements to be sent by Wendy Sherman, the State Department and the White House to the T-TPLF.
I remember when Robert Mugabe “won” his presidential election in August 2013 by 61 percent, Secretary of State John Kerry sent his the following “congratulatory” note: “Make no mistake: in light of substantial electoral irregularities reported by domestic and regional observers, the United States does not believe that the results announced today represent a credible expression of the will of the Zimbabwean people… The balance of evidence indicates that today’s announcement was the culmination of a deeply flawed process.”
Two weeks ago when Omar Hassan al-Bashir claimed reelection in the Sudan by a landslide victory of 94.05 percent and declared that his National Congress Party (NCP) has won 323 of 426 parliamentary seats, the “Troika” issued a “congratulatory” Joint Statement on Elections in Sudan:
The members of the Troika (Norway, the United Kingdom, and the United States) regret the Government of Sudan’s failure to create a free, fair, and conducive elections environment. Restrictions on political rights and freedoms, counter to the rights enshrined in the Sudanese Constitution, the lack of a credible national dialogue, and the continuation of armed conflict in Sudan’s peripheries, are among the reasons for the reported low participation and very low voter turnout. The outcome of these elections cannot be considered a credible expression of the will of the Sudanese people.
I can’t wait, just can’t wait, to hear what Wendy Sherman, the State Department and White House will say on May 25, 2015, when they officially confirm what they have known for the past year. The T-TPLF has won by 100 percent of the votes and captured all 547 seats in “parliament”.
Wendy Sherman and Barack Obama should understand a simple fact about elections: “Politicians are like diapers. They both need changing regularly and for the same reason.”
Arrrrgh! The thought of poor Ethiopia wearing the same diapers for another 5 years…. for a total of 25 years!!!
May 4, May 5, May 6,… May 20, May 21, May 22, May 23, and still counting, May 25.
Professor Alemayehu G. Mariam
posted by Daniel tesfaye