Monday, July 02, 2007

Millennial Challenges: Dispassionate assessment of the Ethiopian PM Parliamentary Report and a Professors' attempt to grade it or degrade it?

Dear Patriotic Global Citizens and Friends of Ethiopia:

Re: Grading or Degrading the "PM Report to Ethiopian Parliament".

At the dawn of Ethiopian Millennium, digital communication is giving us access to visual, audio and data reports almost in real time in any part of the world. We have the capacity to respond and engage with each other in a manner that was never possible though out our existence on earth, some call it 4 billion years, others 80,000 years and the Ethiopians record 7,550 from Adam to Zenawi as we celebrate the new Millennium on 12 September 2007.

This instant communication across the globe has created a unique opportunity for dialogue, discussion and opportunity for analyzing reports in real time almost from any where in the world. The new technology of blogging is giving individuals the same or even better access than people in authority who used to dominate public communication, such as politicians or executives, who are in essence limited by the protocols of institutions they lead- in terms of defending themselves outside the formal presentation modalities available to them.

So, I took the priviledge of sharing with you the recent Ethiopian PM Report and his critics comments, by posting them side by side, in the same page to ensure access to a potential fair review of the reports and the critics comments intemrs of clarity , context, and perspectives. We can judge the rep[orters, those who aspire to judge them and grade those so called "Human Right Professors turned politicans" themselves for what they write and for the judgements they make.

This is indeed a unique opportunity of modern communication. Good governance demands transparency, accountability and competency at all levels.

As such, the recent Ethiopian Parliament deliberations with the the focus on the "Ethiopian PM report " on the much awaited issues of "Peace in the Horn, Sustainable Development and Good Governance" has attracted unprecedented attention from international journlasits such as the Washington Post, and the self proclaimed "Human Rights Professor" at times campaigner for human rights and against the Ethiopian government and the Ethiopiam Prime Minister.

Professor Al is now taking a new role of acting as proxy for the "Prisoners of the 2005 Election Fiasco" who were convicted of crimes against the state and for inciting violence and potential treason against the constitution and the state. This is serious matter and no amount of negative campaign can change the rules and regulations formulated to protect the interest of the Ethiopian people in the 21st century. The questions is how do we influence it? Perhaps Prof Al's approach is a novel attempt to make governments across the world accountable to their constituents both at home and in the Diaspora.

In the case of the Kaliti prisoners, they unfortunately chose not to defend themselves against the overwhelming audio, video and print evidence that the procecution presented. As a result, accordig to the law of the country, they have been found guilty and are now are awaiting for the final judgement some time in July 2007. However rumors of their plea bargain argument for freedom and the desire to sign for accepting guilt in response for pardon is not yet acknowledged by the PM who made it clear that his government will not interfere with the due process of the law regardless of pleas and pressure from outside source, etc. The plea bargain might be considered at the end of the legal proceedings and not before. The recent Scotter Liby Pardon of President Bush is a case in point. The president waited untill the legal proceedings were complete and penalities were announced.

A professor camoflouging as a political activist!

So, Professor Al has taken upon himself to grade the PM's Report to Parliament from his armchair office in California and has written a very interesting article which is attached below with the report of the PM to Parliament, so that readers could grade both the PM and the Professor for the content, context and overall presentation of the two reports.

I sometimes wonder, if this is an attempt to grade or degrade the PM's comptetence, which can be seen clearly for what it is in the current scenario via the video and translations of the speech that is attached here.

Good governance, transparency and accountability demands that those who criticise others are also putting themselves for the scrutiny to which they put their subjects. I wonder if Professor Al himself will passs the scrutiny of competence in this specific case.

I would like to see an objective analysis of the PM and the Professor with facts on reality on the merits of Regional Peace, Sustainable Development and Good Goverance in Ethiopia amid the chaos in the Horn.

Here is both the report and the Professor's commentary for your considered opinion.

with regards

Belai Habte-Jesus,MD, MPH
Global Strategic Enterprises, Inc,,

Full Report by PM Meles to the House of Rrepresentatives

June 28, 2007

Honorable Speaker of the House,

Honorable Members of the House

of Peoples' Representatives

One can assume that it is possible to conclude from presentations of varied performance reports to the House that the government has been engaged this year in implementing action plans that have been drawn up to realize its objectives for peace, development and good governance. The report, being presented today is in line with the same procedures and will focus in particular on issues pertaining to ensuring peace to our country and the region as well as implementation of strategies of good governance.

The House is acquainted with the fact that our country, having considered the threat posed to our country and the region by extremists that took refuge in Somalia and upon the request made by the government of Somalia, has deployed its defence forces and was also preoccupied with implementing the plan on the phased withdrawal of its defence forces from Somalia.

We, however, were forced to revise our plans prior to the implementation of the third and final phase. These were made necessary because the terrorists in Mogadishu and its environs started regrouping under the lead coordinating role of the Eritrean government and relying on foreign support. They were also able to exploit the misguided policies of some of the leaders of the sub-clans to start mounting attacks not only on the Ethiopian defence forces but also on the AU peacekeeping force expected to take over from the Ethiopian army. Complete withdrawal of our forces at a juncture when the terrorists have mounted incessant assaults was not a preferred option as it exposed to an ominous danger the newly deployed AU peacekeeping force and could have impeded the deployment of additional peacekeeping force. This could also have led to the reversal of the process of stabilization of Somalia.

Our defense forces, had no option but to slow down their process of withdrawal which if allowed to continue would have led to a complete reversal of the victory achieved. Accordingly, it became necessary to draw up plans for breaking together with the troops of the TFG and the citizens of Mogadishu the back of the terrorists that have made Mogadishu their redoubt.

A successful operation was mounted in a highly organized joint campaign to rout the terrorists in Mogadishu. An integrated plan drawn up subsequently to expedite the complete withdrawal of our defence force is presently under implementation.

Decommissioned and trained militias and combatants from the different sub-clans after having been disarmed and handing over their weapons are now being re-integrated into the police and defence forces as part of the drive to build the forces of the Transitional Federal Government.

A wide-ranging training programme is underway to boost the capacity of the defence forces of Somalia. On top of the joint training and reorganization schemes carried out by Ethiopian and Ugandan Forces, selected groups brought to Ethiopia are receiving high-level military training. Simultaneously, extensive work is being carried out with respect to the collection of enormous amount of weapons that have inundated Mogadishu as well as in connection with disarming large number of people with arms in collaboration with the public. As a result, despite sporadic terrorist acts, the situation in Mogadishu is one in which the TFG is in control of the whole city making it impossible for terrorists or non-government militia to control any part of the city.

It is obvious that a number of African countries had pledged peacekeeping forces in addition to the Ugandan defence force already deployed to Mogadishu. Owing to terrorist attacks and lack of logistical support, however, additional peacekeepers have not yet been deployed. Countries have renewed their pledges and are confirming their commitment for expeditious deployment of peacekeeping contingents to Somalia after our defence force has crushed the organizational capability of the terrorists in a joint operation with the TFG and the people of Mogadishu. The bottleneck now is the failure on the part of states and parties to release funds they pledged to support the deployment of the peacekeeping force to Somalia. The AU is making unstinted effort to tackle the problem and the Ethiopian government is supporting that effort.

What is critical now for realizing durable peace in Somalia is for the Transitional Federal Government to ensure the holding of national reconciliation among the Somalis by making sure that grievances over insufficient representation are addressed and the political base of the TFG is thus broadened. We are, thus, supporting whole-heartedly efforts to convene a National Reconciliation Congress in Somalia. Commendable steps taken by the Transitional Government were instrumental in setting-up an independent Commission that freely organizes and oversees the congress.

The government has taken upon itself to create enabling environment for the clans and sub-clans to freely elect their representatives in line with the formula provided for in the Transitional Charter and to conduct serious of dialogues with parties claiming inadequate participation. It has managed to secure the willingness of these to participate in the congress. Its recent decree to forgive all UIC members except those prominent international terrorists, allowing their participation in the congress if represented by their clans, was indicative of the encouraging measures taken in this connection.

Besides appreciating and supporting these constructive peaceful measures, the Ethiopian government will render in tandem with the Transitional Government and the AU peacekeeping force (AMISOM) all the necessary support for the successful convening as scheduled of the Reconciliation Congress.

It should be underlined that, the government of Ethiopia would like now as well to completely pull out its defence force expeditiously. But, this could take place upon the successful conduct of the reconciliation conference and the consolidation of the TFG with the capability of the police and defence forces bolstered and the full deployment of AMISOM realized. Our focus has been on facilitating conditions that will allow the complete withdrawal of our defence forces because pulling out without the realization of the aforementioned objectives could result in the reversal of the victory achieved against the terrorists through enormous effort. As already indicated encouraging results have already been achieved. Accordingly, we are confident that the right condition will be created before too long for the complete withdrawal of our troops.

We are also, on the other hand, implementing an integrated and comprehensive strategy devised to ward off the chaos the Eritrean government wants to unleash against our country. Our objective is to achieve success in the battle we are waging against poverty through resolving all differences peacefully and through dialogue. In conformity with this principle we have tried to resolve the problem between Eritrea and Ethiopia peacefully on the basis of a realistic and detailed plan which could have helped the two countries make progress.

In connection with this, despite flaws in the decision of the Boundary Commission, we have repeatedly and unequivocally declared our acceptance of the same because it is the Commission's verdict. With regard to the implementation of the decisions of the Boundary Commission, because dialogue on issues of implementation to ensure sustainable peace is not only imperative but also a common international practice during border demarcations, we have repeatedly and unambiguously expressed our desire and readiness to discuss the implementation and move on to the actual demarcation. Convinced that sustainable peace could prevail between the two countries when conditions are created for amicable neighborly ties after dialogue and negotiation on issues beyond the border demarcation, we have made it abundantly clear that we are ready for such a dialogue. Notwithstanding impediments to this realistic and peaceful option, we would persist in our effort until it is fully realized. We do so because this is a correct strategy and in line with our vision.

Our strategy of resolving conflicts through peaceful means and dialogue which is indeed part and parcel of our strategy to overcome poverty can succeed only when others also act likewise. It has now become abundantly clear that there is no commensurate stance and commitment in the part of Eritrea. As a result, it is deemed necessary to make the necessary military preparation for deterring possible Eritrean invasion and to repulse such an invasion should it occur. We have thus achieved the requisite military capability to deter and to effectively repulse aggression. We have done so by allocating sufficient resources but without allowing our development plans to be adversely affected. While what we have done already in this regard is satisfactory, we will nonetheless continue to give all the necessary attention to the continuing bolstering of our defence capacity until peace is realized fully.

A few years ago, the Eritrean Government was sabre-rattling in a very ostentatious manner expressing readiness to invade Ethiopia. But we have now come to the point where neither Eritrea nor others could ignore that at present our Defense Forces have the capacity to deter aggression and to repulse it if it occurred and that this is being strengthened by the day.

Thus while it is obvious that the Government of Eritrea will never miss an opportunity to carry out aggression against Ethiopia should there be an opportunity, it is nonetheless evident that at present its strategy is mainly based on spreading chaos in Ethiopia by organizing, arming and deploying Ethiopian opposition forces which it uses as instruments for this objective.

Resistance to such a strategy of the Eritrean regime requires mounting a joint public and government effort to control the activities of these Trojan Horses of the Eritrean Government. In spite of an all-out effort made by the government to persuade these organizations to respect the Constitution and the laws of the land, to denounce war and terrorism and to use instead peaceful means in pursuit of their goals, they have been adamant and would not budge from their destructive course. The only alternative thus remains exposing these destructive forces, which are nothing more than stooges of the Eritrean government, and keeping them in check through a joint public and government effort. I call upon the people of Ethiopia to join hands with the government to expose and crack down on those elements while the Eritrean government and its lackeys are now busy conniving to disrupt public celebrations of the Ethiopian Millennium.

Honorable Speaker of the House,

Honorable Members of the House of Peoples' Representatives,

It is quite obvious that the Federal Government has the responsibility to boost human resources and organizational capacity of the legislative, executive and judiciary organs at the federal level in order to accomplish its agenda of promoting good governance all over the country. Further, it also needs to provide full support to the regions and coordinate their efforts in this regard.

With regard to the Federal House of people's Representatives, a plan focusing on three main issues was drawn up in addition to training and experience sharing programmes to be implemented by the House itself. With the prerogatives of the ruling party to lead the country kept intact the plan which was devised to provide the opposition the chance to be adequately heard and participate by improving the regulations of the House relating to its procedure and code of ethics, should be cited first. Similarly, the plan to improve the electoral law, and the procedural and organizational structure of the Electoral Board by conducting a study on the shortcomings of the 2005 election was also an issue which was given adequate attention. Thirdly, various activities were undertaken by revising the press law to ensure the implementation of a plan to promote free press based on the principles of transparency, accountability and freedom as is required in a democratic system.

The code of ethics and procedure of the House of People's Representatives was amended by benchmarking the experiences of other countries known to have best experiences. Those parties which have seats in the House participated in the amendment process and currently the adopted document is under implementation. It can, therefore, be said that an improved legal framework has been created to make our House of People's Representatives one of the best Houses enjoying best democratic practices which have now become operational.

With regard to the amendment of the procedures and the law of the Electoral Board, foreign experts were hired to conduct studies and come up with recommendations. Thenafter, parties which were ready to participate on discussions and negotiations on this issue deliberated and adopted a draft amended law.

In accordance with the joint agreement reached by the parties, the Woreda and Kebele elections which were supposed to be held this year were postponed for next year. Those parties which are interested and have seats in the House have been allowed to nominate candidates for membership in the Electoral Board in conformity with the stated criterion. After duly considering the candidates nominated by the parties and based on the law of the country, I have presented to the House capable candidates I believe are competent for membership to the Board. I believe all the candidates meet the criterion as some are nominated by the ruling party, while others are by the opposition establishing their capacity and non partisanship which has been found to be a new and useful practice for our country.

In the same manner, all efforts need be exerted to complete by early next year the plan to improve and strengthen the press law which was not completed this budget year. Parallel to this, in accordance with the plan to set up community radio stations, a radio station was commissioned as a pilot project and lessons drawn are being compiled.

After lessons are drawn and compiled, the expansion work will continue. Parallel to this, licenses have been issued to 51 newspapers and magazines, out of which 20 are profit-making enterprises, to allow the press to do its job properly. With regard to the plan to provide sufficient information to the private media by government agencies, the private media has now begun to participate in press conferences being held by various organs. Though it is expected of us to work hard to establish a vibrant, free and democratic media, it can be said that significant improvements were registered in creating a healthy democratic media.

In the same manner, a plan to strengthen an earlier plan of reforming the procedural and organizational structure of the courts was drawn up on the one hand, and on the other, a plan was conceived to make the federal judicial system transparent and accountable. To strengthen the federal judicial system in places where the reform of the judicial system has already started, activities are being undertaken to further strengthen the reform, while work is also in progress to bring the reform, step by step, to the Woreda level. Although this reform program is expected to play an important role in strengthening the judicial system, it is apparent that the necessary outcome cannot be attained unless the manpower within the system can adequately be reinforced in its mastery of professional knowledge and ethics. Therefore, a broad training program for regional professionals has been designed and conducted in the regions after changes were introduced on the basis of lessons drawn from the training provided at the federal level to court professionals and prosecutors.

In addition to training and improving the competence of legal professionals and ethical conduct within the judicial system, it is essential to improve transparency and accountability as well. The judicial system can never be reliably improved unless a mechanism is established which can assign those professionals whose practical performance is not compatible with their qualifications as per the level of their efficiency. Unless there is a mechanism that also provides for holding accountable, those professionals who have failed to meet the desired code of conduct, the judicial system cannot be overhauled in a reliable manner. Although a study was conducted to undertake this task, it was found out that the study itself needs to be revised and improved and thus could not be implemented. Reviewing, improving and implementing the study would be an issue that requires attention in the future.

The civil service reform program is one of the major plans drawn up to build the executive capacity of the federal government. Efforts have been exerted to implement the civil service program in all governmental organizations, giving special attention to those organizations with larger share in our economic activities. Regular reviews on the implementation process are also imperative in order to make improvements accordingly. Efforts have been made for all federal institutions to evaluate their working procedures and organizational structures as well as draw lessons from countries who are known to have best practices and accordingly design and implement plans to reengineer a change. In those institutions which have been selected to have greater contributions in our development activities, every effort is being exerted to employ foreign professionals to reengineer the change, in addition to their own reform programs.

In order to be able to build local capacity of designing and executing the civil service reform program and to build the capacity of the civil service college and other similar institutions in implementing this activity, efforts have been exerted to jointly work with similar foreign institutions. Periodic reviews were conducted to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the implementation of the civil services reform process in order to ensure its fruitfulness.

The federal government's execution capacity has been steadily improving through the tremendous efforts deployed. Despite the fact that significant gains were made, there were still various problems which were encountered. Therefore, it cannot be said that the reform program has brought about the expected radical change at the pace desired. It has required a considerable amount of money and time to design and implement a feasible reform program as the requisite knowledge and experience needed to modernize the civil service process and structure is not available locally.

The other problem is the arduous struggle and commitment needed to change the bureaucratic practice which has been prevalent for about a century. The professional capacity and experience of the civil servant is extremely limited when seen against the demands of modern civil service. To add to that, the resistance from a significant number of people who are skeptical of the reform has complicated the whole process.

We will remain committed to the reform without giving in to the impediments as there is no other alternative to it. Heads of all institutions will be required to implement the reform program with ever-stronger dedication and commitment. Heads will be evaluated on their commitment and capability to deliver on the reform and if need be they will be reshuffled. The reform program will continue with enhanced know-how and efficiency drawing lessons from practices witnessed both locally and overseas. Special attention will be given to provide continuous support and training in addition to recruiting and retaining competent professionals capable of advancing modern civil service practices. Special attention will also be given to making the civil service an important tool to bring about change instead of being an impediment.

In order to fully implement the plan designed to promote public participation in issues pertaining to government performance in a sustained and organized manner, various governmental institutions have begun to work closely with various professional and mass organizations. This approach requires governmental institutions to constantly consult with these organizations representing a cross-section of the society.

The experiences gained and the improvements made in this regard, will be implemented in every institution. In this connection, improving the laws governing non-governmental organizations was found to be crucial. A study undertaken to this end is almost completed. The revised draft law was expected to be presented to the House this year. However, as the study could not be completed, it will be presented to the honorable House, next year.

Along with the tremendous efforts being exerted to realize good governance at the federal level, the federal government is providing better support then ever to assist regional governments in their efforts to promote good governance. In this regard, special attention is accorded to the preparation and implementation of two rural and urban action plans on good governance. The action plans were discussed by relevant federal and regional organs at consultation forums organized at the end of last year and the beginning of this year in collaboration with regions. They have now been adopted and are under implementation.

Emanating from the strong conviction that training is crucial for the successful implementation of the program, government officials at each level are being provided with successive and extensive training. In addition to training programmes offered to urban engineers, officials who have been assigned to political posts were given training in government policies and management. For instance, not less than 400 youth with first degrees from various regions have started participating in programs designed to train urban development workers for second degrees in collaboration with the Civil Service College and other foreign institutions active in the same area.

The program will also be vigorously continued next year. In short, although there are some occasional delays in connection with implementing the plan to realize good governance at the federal and regional levels, the overall performance is satisfactory and is progressing according to plan.

I thank you!

Zenawi's report to his 'parliament': Analysis and commentary
By Prof. Alemayehu G. Mariam
July 2, 2007


Prof. Al Mariam
A Note of Full Disclosure to the Reader
This analysis/commentary is written at the behest of numerous individuals and organizations who wanted to hear my views on Zenawi’s recent speech presented in the form of a “report” to his “House of People’s Representatives." 1

In the past, I have deferred to the commentary and scrutiny of independent local media sources and opposition political groups for enlightenment on Zenawi’s shenanigans. I reluctantly agreed to comment on this “report” now for two reasons. First, since independent journalists and opposition leaders in Ethiopia -- that is, the voice of the people -- remain muzzled in jails and prisons, I thought it my moral duty to “stand in” and stand up for them, and let the world know that though they may be in the belly of Zenawi’s dungeons, THEY ARE NEITHER ALONE NOR VOICELESS! WE ARE STANDING BY THEM!

Second, I believe there will be wide-ranging conversation on freedom, democracy and human rights within and without Ethiopia following the release of the prisoners of conscience. I am acutely aware of the gamesmanship surrounding their release, and even if they are not released, the GAME IS OVER for Zenawi. Beyond that, I believe it is necessary to challenge Zenawi not only for his actions and omissions, but also for his ideas and vision, if he indeed he has any, for Ethiopia. And so, here is my analysis and commentary…

Zenawi’s Mantra: Peace, Development and Good Governance

The central themes in Zenawi’s report to the “House” consist of the trilogy of clichés he has been tediously harping about for the last decade and half: peace, development and good governance. The “report” is a self-graded, self-serving statement intended to chronicle his achievements on these issues over the past year, and rationalize the “government’s action plans” and “implementation of strategies for peace, development and good governance.”

Let me say at the outset that this report-cum-speech is one of the most desultory and confusing statements I have ever read by anyone purporting to be a political leader. The “report” is full of platitudes about peace. It is unimaginative about development; and it lacks fresh ideas about good governance.

The “report” recycles the same old hackneyed and discredited arguments about why things are not possible in Ethiopia. It contains no creative ideas about healing the great divides -- political, economic, social -- in Ethiopian society, strikes no bold gestures about living harmoniously with neighboring countries, demonstrates no discernable commitments to the rule of law and preservation of human rights, presents no intelligible strategy to deal with the country’s grinding poverty and widening inequality, and above all, it is devoid of any vision for Ethiopia’s future.

Remarkably, the report does not demonstrate the depth of understanding necessary to deal with the current and long-term domestic and foreign policy issues and problems of the country. It reeks with insincerity and hypocrisy. Most importantly, it ignores the people of Ethiopia, and the burdens they face every day. It fails to answer the supreme existential and transcendental question for all Ethiopians today: How can one chicken cost 80 birr?

In general, my opinion on the substance of the report/speech is that it is boilerplate hokum designed to hide the stark fact that Zenawi has no solutions for Ethiopia’s current problems or a realistic vision for its future.

In terms of style, the speech/report is dry and uninteresting. It lacks passion, conviction and eloquence. The Amharic audio recording of the speech is unbearably monotonous and robotic, reminiscent of the soporific (sleep inducing) drone of an old time radio announcer reading the news.

So much for general comments. Now, let us now carefully examine the substance of the report/speech.


Peace In/With Somalia, Peace With Eritrea, or Pax Zenawi?

Zenawi referred to “peace” in one form or another some 22 times in his speech. But much of the use of the word is platitudinous (dull political oratory). Beyond that, his conceptions of peace and associated remarks are confusing, and send dangerous signals to both friend and foe.

Zenawi’s idea of regional peace is anchored in a doctrine of militarization which he describes as “bolstering our defense capacity until peace is realized.” He said he seeks a “durable peace” in Somalia, and a “sustainable peace” with Eritrea. But he wants to guarantee both “by bolstering our defense capacity”.

During the reporting year, it is clear that Zenawi did not find peace in Somalia or Eritrea, and certainly, not in Ethiopia. He said he sent his troops to Somalia to give the Somalis peace at the “request made by the government of Somalia”. But peace remains elusive because of “threats posed by extremists who have taken refuge in Somalia”. He argued that he “was forced to revise plans for [troop withdrawal in] the third and final phase because terrorists were regrouping and coordinating their efforts with Eritrea.”

He reported progress in disarming Somali militia members and “re-integrating them into the police and defence forces as part of the drive to build the forces” of the Transitional Federal Government” (TFG). He declared Mission Accomplished: “[T]he situation in Mogadishu is one in which the TFG is in control of the whole city making it impossible for terrorists or non-government militia to control any part of the city.” He noted that he is working “whole-heartedly to convene a National Reconciliation Congress in Somalia.” He commended the TFG for “setting-up an independent Commission that freely organizes and oversees the congress”, allowing “dialogues with parties claiming inadequate participation.”

Zenawi cautioned that withdrawal from Somalia under the current circumstances would “prevent deployment of AU (African Union) peacekeepers”, and lead to a “reversal of the process of stabilization of Somalia”. He affirmed that Somalia’s salvation remains with the deployment of African peacekeepers. But that has not been possible because of the “failure on the part of states and parties to release funds they pledged to support the deployment of the peacekeeping force to Somalia.”

He reassured the “House” that he will “completely pull out” his troops “upon the successful conduct of the reconciliation conference and the consolidation of the TFG with the capability of the police and defence forces bolstered and the full deployment of AMISOM realized.”

Courting Disaster in Somalia

As events over the past six months have shown, keeping Ethiopian troops in Somalia is misguided, calamitous and plain wrong. No country has the right to invade its neighbors regardless of the domestic situation of that neighboring country. If Zenawi’s recent comment to the Washington Post is any indication, it appears that he now understands that elementary principle of international law along with the catastrophic consequences of his strategic miscalculations.

Zenawi’s current strategy of “I-will-not leave-Somalia-until-African-Union-peacekeepers-arrive” is a recipe for disaster. He has now put himself in the unenviable position of “cutting and running” or staying in Somalia and sinking deeper into the Somalia quagmire, while needlessly expending the lives of young Ethiopians to sustain a doomed policy of aggression.

The fact of the matter is that the presence of Ethiopian combat troops in Somalia is not a solution to Somalia’s political or social problems. For the past 16 years, Somalia has been a polarized and fragmented society. It is regarded as a “failed state” because it has no legitimate national government, among other things. It has become the battleground for warlords and militiamen. Zenawi naively believed that he could outmaneuver and outwit the Somali clan leaders into accepting his lackey, Ali Mohammed Gedi, as transitional federal government prime minister. In much the same way as he accused the Eritreans for trying to use “Trojan Horses” to create chaos in Ethiopia, he tried to use Gedi as a Trojan Horse to impose a Pax Zenawi (Zenawi’s brand of peace) on the Somali people. He tried to sell them his brand of peace in the name of national reconciliation and power sharing. But neither the clan leaders nor the Somali people are buying it.

Zenawi finds himself in the cauldron of Somali clan politics. He has learned that it is impossible to trick or coerce all of the clan leaders into accepting Gedi. No Somali regards him as a genuine national leader. He is considered Zenawi’s stooge. He has little credibility.

Now, Zenawi is facing the consequences of his intervention: Somali nationalist reaction to Ethiopia’s occupation and rejection of a puppet government he set up. He can try and justify his intervention by trotting out jihadist bogeymen, but the fact remains that Somalis are rightfully resisting occupation of their country. In all fairness, if Somalia had invaded Ethiopia and made the same claims of terrorist infestation, all of us would be outraged and rise up to defend our country against such naked aggression.

So the twin outstanding problems in Somalia today are 1) the presence of Ethiopian occupation forces, and 2) Zenawi’s support of Gedi’s regime. Until these two issues are resolved, the principal political problem of Somalia -- clan polarization and fragmentation -- can not be effectively addressed. The fact is that since the downfall of Said Barre in 1991, Somalia has degenerated into clan politics, and clan leaders are more interested in carving out territory to control than establishing a national government. It is doubtful that they can be pressured into agreeing to form a national government led by an individual perceived to be an Ethiopian puppet.

By his own admission, Zenawi miscalculated the intentions and integrity of the clan leaders, and underestimated the complexity and severity of Somali clan politics. Whatever political problems the Somalis may have had in the past, it is now trumped by the unwelcome presence of troops from a country many Somalis regard as a historical foe. The inescapable fact is that sooner or later Ethiopian troops will have to leave Somalia, and if persuasive diplomacy is not underway soon to bring about genuine reconciliation and power sharing, we would have to fear about stateless not only in Somalia, but Ethiopia itself. But despite Zenawi’s claims of political reconciliation and power-sharing, there is no evidence that he is genuinely interested in an all-inclusive political arrangement that would include those groups who have been marginalized by his support of Gedi.

In any case, Zenawi has put himself in a “catch 22” situation. He says he can not leave Somalia because African peacekeepers are not there. But the peacekeepers will not set foot in Somalia so long as Ethiopian troops are there. So, he digs deeper into the Somali quagmire.

Stuck in Somalia: No Peace and No Exit Strategy

The bottom line on Zenawi’s peace report on Somalia is: There is no peace in Somalia today. There will not be peace there tomorrow. There will not be peace in Somalia anytime in the foreseeable future because the whole country is infested by “terrorists”, “extremists”, jihadists, Islamists and wild-eyed Al-Queidists. Several days after submission of the “report” to the “House”, Zenawi admitted to the Washington Post that he "made a wrong political calculation" when he intervened in Somalia. Now facing an implacable and tenacious Somali insurgency, and lacking any domestic or international support for his reckless adventurism, the best Zenawi can do is offer half-hearted contrition and meaningless words of remorse.[2]

And if the “House of the People’s Representatives” were to ask, “So, what is the exit strategy out of Somalia?”, I suspect Zenawi’s answer, with a stiff upper lip, would be: “There is no exit strategy out of the quagmire of Somalia until Mission is Accomplished!”

Somalia faces extraordinary challenges today, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Neither Zenawi nor the international donors have the ability to address these challenges. The solution is in the hands of the Somali people. It is their choice ultimately to have political and social harmony, or fall even deeper into a vortex of political chaos and anarchy. They can not be pressured or tricked by neighbors or international donors. Today Ethiopia’s occupation of Somalia has become a lightening rod focusing Somali rage on their occupiers. And if Somalia should fall deeper into political chaos and violence, the responsibility will be placed on Zenawi’s doorsteps.

The long term consequences of this reckless intervention for Ethiopia will be monumental. Future generations of Ethiopians will have to deal with and pay for this dark legacy of intervention. Suffice it to say that we live in a rough neighborhood in Northeastern Africa. Our friends are few, and our foes many!

Just for the record: There were a few “minor” omissions from the report: How many thousands of Somalis were killed in the violence occasioned by the intervention? What happened to the hundreds of thousands of Somalis who fled the country following Zenawi’s invasion and occupation? Did any countries, international organizations, leaders call for the immediate withdrawal of Ethiopian troops from Somalia? There is nothing about these issues in the report.

War or Peace With Eritrea, or the Badimé Quagmire

In the report/speech, Zenawi declared his aspirations for a “sustainable peace” with Eritrea that will allow the border demarcation to proceed. He said he wanted to “resolve all differences peacefully and through dialogue” with Eritrea. He explained that “despite flaws in the decision of the Boundary Commission, we have repeatedly and unequivocally declared our acceptance of the same because it is the Commission's verdict.” He said his problem is with implementation of the “actual demarcation” of the boundary lines, and he will not talk demarcation until “conditions are created for amicable neighborly ties”.

But his lip service to “sustainable peace” with Eritrea is betrayed by his blistering attack on the Eritrean regime. He accused the Eritrean government of plotting to “unleash chaos against our country.” He accused Eritrea for “ostentatious saber-ratting a few years ago”, using armed dissident groups as “Trojan Horses” and for plotting to destabilize Ethiopia. While accusing Eritrea of “saber-rattling”, he did his own saber-rattling by declaring that it is “necessary to make the necessary (sic) military preparation for deterring possible Eritrean invasion and to repulse such an invasion should it occur.” He bragged that he has “the requisite military capability to deter and to effectively repulse (Eritrean) aggression.”

But is there really a disputable issue with the arbitration award of the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission? Not really. Both countries submitted their cause to the Commission on the explicit condition that the Commission’s determinations will be “final and binding”. Zenawi initially rejected the border ruling and refused to allow the border demarcation, resulting in long delays. Now, he says he will be willing to implement the decision by allowing demarcation, but only if there is a “sustainable peace” between the two countries.

The fact of the matter is that the Algiers Agreement places the responsibility on the UN to take measures, including under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, against the party that violates the terms of the Agreement. So, Zenawi now sits on the horns of a dilemma: implement the Commission’s ruling or risk U.N. sanctions, and face an even greater risk of war with Eritrea.

Contrary to Zenawi’s claims, the physical demarcation of the boundary lines between the two countries does not entail political or technical/engineering problems. There are adequate legal principles under international law to ensure the demarcation is done consistent with the Boundary Commission’s ruling. There are also sophisticated mapping techniques and technologies to aid in the accurate drawing of the boundary lines.

The peace report on Eritrea is full of excuses and subterfuges. Zenawi attempts to suggest that the boundary dispute with Eritrea is not really settled, and that there are some critical unsettled demarcation issues. That is deceptive and misleading. The boundary dispute is a done deal, and Zenawi stated in his “report” that has accepted the ruling of the Commission. The only thing left is implementation. But in the final analysis, Zenawi’s strategy on the boundary issue is: “say-one-thing-and-do-another-thing”.

There can not, and must not be another war arising from the implementation of the boundary commission decision. The fact of the matter is that a boundary dispute that was decided on the battleground was submitted to binding arbitration. Now, the decision of the boundary commission can not be a pretext for war. It is time to face reality, and walk the talk on the boundary line!

Back to the question: When will there be peace with Eritrea? Someday. But until that day comes, Zenawi pledges to continue building “the requisite military capability to deter and to effectively repulse (Eritrean) aggression.” In short, Zenawi’s message in the report is: The threat of war with Eritrea is Peace!

Peace in Ethiopia or the 800 Pound Gorilla in the Living Room

Peace in Ethiopia! What? Yes, how about peace in Ethiopia?

The report/speech does not contain a single word on peace in Ethiopia. It does not appear that Zenawi has even considered the issue; and if he has, he did not consider it important enough to report on it. Perhaps he thought Ethiopia is a society without memory, and the people have forgotten the withering oppression of the past 16 years. The irrefutable fact of the matter is that his regime is at war with the people of Ethiopia. His troops kill, torture, maim and imprison citizens at will. He has trampled on the human rights and civil liberties of the people with impunity. He has defied, scoffed at and turned a deaf ear to the pleas of the international community to bring reconciliation and harmony among the people of Ethiopia.

Again, what about peace in Ethiopia?

I would imagine Zenawi’s answer would be a monologue: “Of course, there is peace in Ethiopia. Look around! Do you hear any opposition leaders complaining? Do you hear any journalists bellyaching about problems? Do you see anybody protesting in the streets? Do you see any real opposition in the “House of the People’s Representatives? You don’t, and that is because there is PEACE in Ethiopia!”

Zenawi needs to make peace with the Ethiopian people!


Zenawi’s remarks on “good governance” are truly confusing. He seems to suggest that the country has good governance and is working feverishly to make improvements. Objective indicators or evidence of good governance are elusive in the report. But there is a whole lot of talk about “plans”, “efforts” “reforms” and “studies” related to “good governance. Zenawi uses the word “plan” in one form or another some 23 times in the report, “effort” 19 times, “reform” 16 times, and “study” 6 times. The report is generous in announcing the existence of a plan for this, and a plan for something else. There is even a plan for a plan. There are all kinds of “efforts” being made to do one thing or another. But nowhere in the report does one see even the ghost of good governance.

As for the “plans” and “efforts”, Zenawi rolled out the big items in the report: a training program for the “federal legislature”, improvements in the “electoral processes so that people could be adequately heard and participate”, and retooling of “the procedural and organizational structure of the Electoral Board by conducting a study on the shortcomings of the 2005 election” (Yeah, right!).

He said he has undertaken various activities aimed at “revising the press law to ensure the implementation of a plan to promote free press based on the principles of transparency, accountability and freedom as is required in a democratic system.” He said “licenses have been issued to 51 newspapers and magazines, out of which 20 are profit-making enterprises, to allow the press to do its job properly.” He declared “significant improvements were registered in creating a healthy democratic media.”

He further reported that various efforts are underway to improve the courts. There is “a plan to strengthen an earlier plan of reforming the procedural and organizational structure of the courts.” Then there is another “plan as conceived to make the federal judicial system transparent and accountable.” There is “expectation” about improving the skills, professionalism and ethics of judicial officers and members of prosecutorial agencies. (By implication, it is obvious that the current prosecutorial and judicial crew lacks the requisite skills, professionalism and ethical standards!)

There is a “plan” to overhaul government bureaucracies. He said there is a “need to change the bureaucratic practice [of the civil service] which has been prevalent

for about a century.” He explained that the “professional capacity and experience of the [Ethiopian] civil servant is extremely limited when seen against the demands of modern civil service.” He added that “the resistance from a significant number of people who are skeptical of the [civil service] reform has complicated the whole process.”

It is truly remarkable that after 16 years in power, the best Zenawi can present in his latest report is an indictment against an allegedly fossilized bureaucracy and half-baked plans and half-hearted efforts in the name of good governance. Incredible!

In a comic moment, Zenawi told the “House of People's Representatives” that by giving them “best practices” lessons to enhance their legislative skills, they have now become “one of the best Houses enjoying best democratic practices which have now become operational.” (I nearly fell off my chair laughing.)

But the self-graded report card on “good governance” proves there is no good governance. There is a plan here, and a plan there for “good governance”, but there is No verifiable evidence of good governance.

What is remarkable about the report is the fact that it offers a window into Zenawi’s understanding (or lack of) of the concept of good governance. He seems to believe that good governance is good talk about good governance.

There is nothing mysterious about good governance. Very simply, it is about being good, fair and just to the people you govern. It is about respecting the civil liberties and human rights of the people. It is about the rule of law, and democratic practices and processes.

But, let’s take the gold standard on good governance, the criteria established by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Good governance is an all-embracing effort involving the “exercise of economic, political and administrative authority to manage a country's affairs at all levels. It comprises the mechanisms, processes and institutions through which citizens and groups articulate their interests, exercise their legal rights, meet their obligations and mediate their differences.”

What exactly is good governance? Among UNDP’s core characteristics of good governance include:

1) Participation (guarantees of participatory rights for citizens in societal decision- making built on a foundation of freedom of association and speech).

2) Institutionalization of the rule of law (creation and use of legal frameworks based on due process, impartiality and enforcement of the laws on human rights).

3) Transparency (institutional and leadership integrity built on the free flow of information).

4) Responsiveness (enabling and empowering institutions and processes to serve all stakeholders).

5) Consensus-building (mediating and harmonizing competing interests and groups to generate broad agreement on public policy).

6) Equity (ensuring that all citizens have equal opportunity in society, regardless of gender, ethnicity, language, income, region, etc.).

7) Efficacy and efficiency (establishment of effective and efficient processes and institutions).

8) Accountability (political leaders and institutions as well as private sector and civil society organizations are held accountable to the public and their members), and

9) Strategic vision (leaders and the public have a broad and long-term perspective on their social, economic and political well-being).

Based on these universally accepted criteria, has Zenawi achieved or made strides towards “good governance” in Ethiopia? Let the reader answer this question!

But let me ask a few questions about one of the central criterion of good governance and my favorite subject: Accountability.

Whatever happened to the cold-blooded killers of the 193 innocent men, women and children? And the sadistic triggermen who wounded 763 unarmed demonstrators?

Whatever happened to the hundreds of thousands of political prisoners that the international human rights organizations and the U.S. State Department say are rotting in Zenawi’s jails?

Whatever happened to the leaders of Kinijit who routed the EPDRF from every hamlet and neighborhood, town and city in Ethiopia?

Whatever happened to press freedoms? Enforcing the law on human rights? Judges who perform their duties without political interference?

Whatever happened to good governance?


The report card on “development” is much the same as the one on “good governance”. There are “plans” and “efforts” for development. Zenawi said his development undertakings will be guided by foreign expertise (possibly because much of the local talent has left the country): “In our development activities, every effort is being exerted to employ foreign professionals to reengineer the change, in addition to their own reform programs.”

He said that “in order to be able to build local capacity of designing and executing the civil service reform program and to build the capacity of the civil service college and other similar institutions in implementing this activity, efforts have been exerted to jointly work with similar foreign institutions.”

As an example of the “development efforts” he singled out for acclaim a program involving “not less than 400 youth with first degrees from various regions [who] have started participating in programs designed to train urban development workers for second degrees in collaboration with the Civil Service College and other foreign institutions active in the same area.” Zenawi noted that he has sought to balance the development and military needs of the country: “We have done so by allocating sufficient resources but without allowing our development plans to be adversely affected.”

Development or Underdevelopment in Ethiopia?

I have no idea what “development” Zenawi is talking about in his report. But in the 2006 Congressional Budget Justification provided by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) [3], Ethiopia’s prospects for development are downright dismal:

Ethiopia remains one of the poorest countries in the world - it ranks 170 out of 177 countries on the 2004 Human Development Index. Ethiopia has an annual per capita income of around $100 (less than one-fourth of the sub-Saharan average). Ethiopia has the poorest human development indicators in the world with more than three-quarters of the population living on less than $1 per day. Despite the 2004 recovery year from the serious drought of 2002-2003, by the end of the calendar year another food emergency began, the Government of Ethiopia (GOE) has requested emergency assistance for 7.2 million people in 2005. Although above the population growth rate, the average 4.5% increase in gross domestic product over the last five years remains below the rate required to achieve the Millennium Development Goal to halve the number of Ethiopians living in poverty by the year 2015. The poverty and vulnerability of Ethiopia's people is also reflected in the inadequate health and education systems and poor access to basic services. Family planning services are under-utilized and under-developed, and the population growth rate of 2.67% is high. HIV/AIDS remains a growing problem….” (emphasis added)

Res ipsa loquitur. Let the evidence speak for itself.

Zenawi Grades Himself

In the last sentence of the report, Zenawi grades himself: “In short, although there are some occasional delays in connection with implementing the plan to realize good governance at the federal and regional levels, the overall performance is satisfactory and is progressing according to plan.” I would be willing to go even further and say that he deserves an “A+” for planning good governance on paper, for making random and haphazard efforts at governance and for talking a good talk about reform and change.

But measured by the gold standard for good governance -- instituting participatory democracy, institutionalization of the rule of law, transparency, responsiveness, consensus-building, equity, establishment of effective and efficient processes and institutions, accountability and strategic vision -- he gets an “F”. I am sorry, but that is all I can honestly give for a report stuffed with doom and gloom, and garnished with mendacity.

I reckon my reputation as a fair and hard-grading professor is well-earned!

The writer, Prof. Alemayehu G. Mariam, can be reached at


[1] Official copy of “report” is posted at:

[2] “Ethiopian Premier Admits Errors on Somalia,” Stephanie McCrummen, Washington Post Foreign Service, Friday, June 29, 2007; Page A16




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