No Diplomacy, No Dependency! (BefeQadu Z Hailu)

I believe all changes must come from within Ethiopia. It is the people of Ethiopia who should have the chance to have the ultimate say to make decisions on its fate. However, realities on ground give foreign powers disproportionate opportunity to interfere in internal affairs; and often times they use it to consolidate powers of authoritarians. World conventions, pacts, partnership values and etc. are lip services to let the hopeless mass hope for a promise that will never be fulfilled, letting citizens settle down while diplomats continue empowering authoritarians to consolidate power through their support.
In post election 2005, foreign powers supported EPRDF financially to rise up after a wave of public protests. Similarly, today too, foreign powers and most of their diplomats in Ethiopia are in favor of the status quo with EPRDF (which is dominated by TPLF) because of mainly the following reasons:
1. Fear of the Unknown
Horn of Africa is capital of crises. Somalia is statess for decades, South Sudan is home of conflict, Eritrea and Sudan are disobedient to the west. Kenya has no strong force and Djibouti is a small partner. Ethiopia, with 100 of millions of population, is a place where no one wants to take the risk of destability. Besides, it hosts a lot of refugees from Eritrea, South Sudan and Somalia. No one wants her to add tens of million of immigrants to the rest of the world. (By the way, the aid to host refugees in Ethiopia goes to National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) and it is the very institution that represses the whole nation with the money it has.)
What so ever, foreign powers play “don’t touch it” strategy to avoid the potential adddition of crises to the region and to the rest of the world. However, because repression will end up in revolt of the people anyway, they can’t keep the silence-stability forever. Therefore, to empower alternative powers is the most important prevention of turmoil, and these countries would most probably receive better return if they invest their tax payers money in the right place.
2. The Military Myth
Ethiopia has been sending peace corps to everywhere there is crises. Rwanda, Burundi, Liberia, Sudan, and Somalia are the places where Ethiopia has sent military people to the UN and AU peace missions. These missions are sources of high earning to who ever is sent for the mission without facing actual threats. Therefore, it has been a source of corruption in here to get the “chance” of going for the mission individually. But, for the international community, it is some contribution that makes Ethiopia (especially its government) look like an ally of peace. There is also the “proxy war” Ethiopia is fighting with Al-Shabab in the name of Global War on Terror. For this, President Obama called the authoritarian government in Ethiopia “democratically elected” on the same speech he admitted that US don’t need to send armies to fight the terrorists because Ethiopian soliders are tough enough to do it.
The foreign powers keep supporting the government in Ethiopia so long as there is the proxy war, and also the missions Ethiopia is willing to send its army to. All these, however, will continue to be regardless of regime changes because for members of the army, it is a question of economic interest. Ethiopia’s Military Myth is mispronounced as Military Might.
3. Developmental Partnership Parody
Partnership is mutual. Government in Ethiopia officially rejected the phrase “development aid” and replaced it with “development partnership” while the aid keeps flowing in one direction. In the past, African leaders, including the late Meles, used to threaten foreign powers who want silence (in the name of peace) that we [Africans], if we are not receiving aid, we will go to civil war and will let them [westerners] suffer from our chaos destroying world peace. Now, this narrative got accepted and replaced the previous narrative that was in place when the ‘cold war’ ended. The promise back then was to give aid only to those governments who are willing to respect their citizens.
Civil Societies that work to aware citizens of their rights and that struggle to get them respected have highly restricted rights to receive fund from foreigners. Starving people like ours barely have the capacity to fund such societies by ourselves. The late Meles have been quoted saying, “there is no country that is developed in foreign aid” and blocked foreign fund sources to civil societies. Ironically, development fund or aid is not ristricted at all. In this way, the government in Ethiopia, resumed to receive development aid without accountability how it is spending it. Reports revealed aid money used to repress citizens for which the developed “development partners” gave no ears.
By keeping associations and societies away or weakened, the government emerged as the sole producer of statistics. The support to authoritarian establishment continues to raise by day. Noone cares how the growth statistic was made, and noone cares about the distribution of so called economic growth.
4. The Coming of China
Then came China, an authoritarian state that promotes it. China gives small aid & much loans to countries based on business opportunity principles to its citizens. It claims not to interfere in one’s internal affairs. Also, it gets Ethiopia as a good market place, a show room to display to other African business partners. This has threatened the west and they practically became just like her. This trend gave confidence to all developing countries. The scramble for allies between the developed countries and “the challenger”, as Fareed Zakaria called China, became an advantage to dictators of Africa.
There is also neocolonialism blaming. Africans want to receive development aid, but don’t want to hear opinion on how to spend it. They shame their supporters using this reference of colonialism. China is, for African dictators, the role model how to act.
Conclusion, No Delusion!
The west and most of its diplomatic community in Addis are only becoming a leverage to keep the status quo going. To Ethiopians who are relying on unreliable promises of foreign powers, it is time to pause and look inwards instead of living in delusion. For them, our countries’ are market places in good times and source of migration in rough times. We are not going to have the support we deserve in the journey to democratize our country. Mighty states will continue to support the power who can silence the mass. Public protests are resistance against oppression to us; for the developed states, it is just disruption that affects one market region, or a cause of immigrants production.
In my opinion, enough energy has already been wasted in lobbying supporters of the government in Ethiopia, to make their support conditional. It is to ‘contain and negotiate’ that makes the difference. We shall fight our authoritarian regimes by ourselves. We shall organize, mobilize and stand for our dignity. The rest will come following.
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