Ethiopia: I Can’t Hear You, Wendy Sherman!
by Alemayehu G. Mariam
Echoes of deceit
On May 24, 2015, Ethiopia had an “election”.
On May 27, 2015, the Associated Press reported that “early results” of ballot counts showed the ruling Thugtatorship of the Tigrean Peoples Liberation Front (T-TPLF) had won 100 percent of 442 parliamentary seats.
On May 27, 2015, the U.S. State Department issued a press Statement on the Ethiopian “election”:
The United States commends the people of Ethiopia for their civic participation in generally peaceful parliamentary and regional elections on May 24… We encourage all candidates, political parties and their supporters to resolve any outstanding differences or concerns peacefully in accordance with Ethiopia’s constitution and laws.
The United States remains deeply concerned by continued restrictions on civil society, media, opposition parties, and independent voices and views. We regret that U.S. diplomats were denied accreditation as election observers and prohibited from formally observing Ethiopia’s electoral process… We are also troubled that opposition party observers were reportedly prevented from observing the electoral process in some locations.
… The United States has a broad and strong partnership with Ethiopia and its people. We remain committed to working with the Ethiopian Government and its people to strengthen Ethiopia’s democratic institutions, improve press freedom, and promote a more open political environment consistent with Ethiopia’s international human rights obligations.
On April 16, 2015, U.S. Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman spoke to the press in Addis Ababa with ingratiating adulation bordering on brown-nosing. She declared:
… 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… The United States believes no group, including Ginbot 7 should attempt to overthrow or speak of overthrowing a democratically elected government… 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.
Sherman showered the T-TPLF with so much praise that the casual observer could have easily mistaken her for a “K” Street lobbyist in the service of the T-TPLF. The only thing Sherman did not say expressly in her statement but strongly implied was that the T-TPLF can just as easily walk on water as it can steal elections.
In my May 3, 2015 commentary “Wendy Sherman and the Ethiopian ‘Election’ That Isn’t”, I expressed my urgent sentiment:
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”.
Say something, Wendy!
I have been on pins and needles all week waiting to hear from Wendy. But Wendy don’t talk. She don’t say nothin’.
Wendy talked everybody under the table when she hectored Ethiopians to come out and vote. She lectured Ethiopians on how “every vote counts”. She did not say who counts the votes.
If she had asked me, I would have told her that it is not that every vote counts but what counts is who counts every vote.
Wendy schooled Ethiopians on the importance of elections. She pontificated about “being inclusive, making sure everybody’s rights are respected.”
She ululated about how “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.”
Now that the T-TPLF has “won” by 100 percent of all the votes it has counted to date, would Wendy say a word or two and let us know how she feels; how thrilled she is with the T-TPLF’s 100 percent “victory”.
I just want to know, Wendy.
Did every vote count in the T-TPLF’s “election”?
Was the “election inclusive”, Wendy?
Did the T-TPLF respect everybody’s rights?
Is Ethiopia still a young democracy, Wendy?
Did Ethiopia in May 2015 “move forward in an election that was free, fair, credible open and inclusive”?
Did the May 24 “election” “strength democracy in Ethiopia”, Wendy?
Say what? I can’t hear you, Wendy.
Could you speak a little louder so we can all hear your answers!
I predicted precisely what the U.S. Government would say following the “election”
In my May 24 commentary, “Aaargh! T-TPLF “Wins” Again!”, I predicted exactly (right down to the words) what the U.S. official assessment and response would be to the T-TPLF “election”. (No, I don’t work for the State Department.)
I am not the kind of guy who likes to gloat, crow or grandstand. But I am kinda feelin’ smug in predicting exactly what the U.S. would say after the election. I am also feeling pretty good in predicting that the T-TPLF would win by 100 percent, not a measly 99.6. Meles would have been so proud. The T-TPLF finally found the Holy Grail of the Perfectly Rigged Election.
The “thugtelligent” T-TPLF
The T-TPLF leaders are “thugtelligent” but not smart. All of them would score in the very top percentile of TQ (that is the equivalent of IQ scores for thugs). They are unsurpassed in things that require thugtelligence. They are cunning thieves. They are peerless in stealing from the cash box and the ballot box. They are shrewd power wheelers and dealers. They are ruthless in ripping off the helpless; and merciless in crushing the defenseless.
But the T-TPLF leaders are not smart. A smart thief or robber will not clean out the store in full view of the world. A smart election thief will not clean out all the ballot boxes and claim the ballots are all his and his alone.
Meles Zenawi, the late demi-god of the T-TPLF was intelligent and clever. He was clever by half. But he was not smart. Following the 2010, Meles proclaimed a 99.6 percent victory. In his victory speech, Meles exhorted his disciples finish the job in 2015:
We… understand that there are people who have not voted for us. I would like to state here in no unequivocal manner that we will respect the decision of those who did not vote for us… I would like to confirm to those who did not vote for us that we will work hard to look into your reasons for not voting for us with the view to learning from them and correcting any shortcomings on our part. We will work day and night to obtain your support in the next election. (Emphasis added.)
In May 2015, Meles’ disciples did not disappoint. They delivered for their late master!
The T-TPLF-U.S. “Election Game” of putting lipstick on a pig
The truth of the matter is that the May 2015 “election” was all scripted and staged in minute detail.
The T-TPLF and the Obama Administration had it all figured out.
The T-TPLF would stage the “election” and go through the motions. It would print ballots, get thousands of ballot boxes. The T-TPLF would put on PR photos of people standing in line to “vote”. To make it look really good, the T-TPLF would have “televised debates”. (I even got to watch one of the televised “debate”. It wasn’t much of a debate. The Blue Party chairman Yilikal Getnet made breakfast, lunch and dinner of the malaria-researcher-turned-instant-foreign-minister Tedros Adhanom.)
The T-TPLF elaborately staged the “election”. They hectored the population to vote every day. They “allocated 44,454 polling stations, with 222,270 public observers and 547 constituencies with 1,935 election officials.” They said Addis Abeba alone has “1,523 polling stations with 7,615 public observers, and 69 election officials.” They said the 2015 “election” was going to be “free, fair and credible” just like the one in 2010.
The T-TPLF knew the “election” was going to be perfect. They would win by 100 percent!
The puppet prime minister (PPM) Hailemariam Desalegn knew the 2015 “election” was going to be “perfect”. He pontificated that “We have to make the [election] process democratic, free, fair and credible in the eyes of our people.” He crowed his party will ensure a free and fair election because “Our institutional process and our laws and regulations are perfect. It is not the law that hinders but the implementation of these laws.” PPM Hailemariam delivered on his word!
I don’t want to sound smug but I knew the T-TPLF would have a “perfekt” election before the PPM Hailemariam or the T-TPLF knew it. In February 2015, I predicted a perfekt election outcome in my commentary “Ethiopia’s Perfekt Elektion“.
For me the T-TPLF-U.S. sponsored “election” was like a soccer game with a twist.
I thought of it as a national soccer match played in the home stadium of Team 1.
All of the fans in the stadium are hand selected gung-ho Team 1 supporters or hired from Team 1 rent-a-fan company.
Members of the opposition team are selected right down to the last man by the owners of Team 1.
The referee and linesmen (assistant referees) are bought and paid for by Team 1.
The rules for the specific match and how the rules are to be applied to the match are determined by the owners of Team 1.
The referees are allowed to issue disciplinary action only against the opposing team regardless of who is at fault. The referees are allowed to kick out of the game for any reason only players from the opposition team. The referees have final decision-making authority on all facts and disputes relating to a given play and the overall match. The referees can stop, suspend or terminate the match at their discretion. Owners of Team 1 determine the total number of goals scored and the winning team in the match.
For its part, the Obama Administration plays the role of silent spectator. It sees the game being rigged, but turns a blind eye. It listenes to the opposing players kept out of the stadium and turns a deaf ear. It sees the T-TPLF gaming the election game and all it can say is there was “peaceful civic participation” and it is “concerned” and “troubled” about something. The Obama Administration does not even say what is troubling it or concerend about. By the way, they said the same exact thing in 2010.
That’s all the T-TPLF-U.S. “election” game is about.
Eurika! I finally figured it out!
In my October 5, 2015 commentary, “What Does President Obama “Know” About Ethiopia’s “Election?”, I pulled my hair out trying to figure out a curious remark made by President Barack Obama during his meeting with Ethiopia’s PPM Hailemariam.
Obama said, “… 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.)
I was intrigued, confused and galled by the President’s curious choice of words. I spent many sleepless nights trying to figure out what Obama “knew” about the May 2015 elections.
Did Obama know the T-TPLF was going to win by 100 percent and best its 2010 record of 99.6 percent?
Did Obama know the T-TPLF would completely shut down the political space for the opposition through intimidation and harassment, tighten its control over civil society, and curtail the activities of independent media in the run up to the “election”?
Did Obama know and remember his words on Civil Society in 2009 when he said, “Make no mistake: Civil society — civil groups hold their governments to high standards.”?Did Obama know opposition parties and leaders would be harassed, intimidated, jailed, persecuted and prosecuted in the run up to the “election”?
Did Obama know that as a result of the so-called “Proclamation on Charities and Society”, “the number of civil society organizations in Ethiopia was reduced from about 4600 to about 1400 in a period of three months in early 2010 and their staff reduced by 90 percent”?
Did Obama know that the best and brightest Ethiopian journalists who reported on the last “election” in 2010 would continue to languish in subhuman prisons and their ranks swelled by additional journalists?
Did Obama know that there are young men and women bloggers barely in their 20s jailed on “terrorism” charges merely for blogging on Facebook and speaking their minds on other social media?
Did Obama know and remember that in 2010 he had shamed the T-TPLF for suppressing the independent press?
Did Obama know the free press in Ethiopia is suppressed, muzzled and shuttered?
Does Obama know that there cannot be an election worth the name where the press, opposition parties and civil society organizations are suppressed and persecuted and there is no level playing political field?
Did Obama know and remember what he told the people of Africa in Accra, Ghana in 2009, “… This is about more than just holding elections. It’s also about what happens between elections. Repression can take many forms, and too many nations, even those that have elections, are plagued by problems that condemn their people to poverty. No country is going to create wealth if its leaders exploit the economy to enrich themselves… No business wants to invest in a place where the government skims 20 percent off the top… No person wants to live in a society where the rule of law gives way to the rule of brutality and bribery. That is not democracy, that is tyranny, even if occasionally you sprinkle an election in there. And now is the time for that style of governance to end.”
Did Obama know that Ethiopia today is under tyranny where corrupt thugs masquerading as leaders and their cronies who have a chokehold on the economy enrich themselves skimming international aid and loans while occasionally sprinkling their thugogracy (thugtatorship) with elections to make it look like a democracy?
Did Obama know the truth of the words he said in 2008 as a presidential candidate, “You know, you can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig. You can wrap an old fish in a piece of paper called ‘change.’ It’s still gonna stink after eight years.”
Did Obama know that you can put the lipstick of election on thugocracy to make it look like a pretty democracy, but at the end of the day it is still a thugocracy?
Did Obama know that his Administration and the T-TPLF can wrap a thugocracy (thugtatprship) in a piece of ballot paper called “election” but after 24 years it’s still gonna stink?
“Ethiopia is a young democracy.” U.S. Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman (April 16, 2015)
Professor Alemayehu G. Mariam teaches political science at California State University, San Bernardino.
posted by Daniel tesfaye