Distortions of Jonathan Tepperman:
Eritrea has no constitution, has held political leaders incommunicado ever since the wake of 9/11 and has no meaningful court system. Somalia is stateless and Sudan – well it is a public knowledge! In stark comparison Ethiopia is a stable emerging democracy set to hold a forth national election. Ethiopia with its enormous population of 80 million with an average age of 17 and good economic prospect is an island of promise amid a challenging region. The US administration should be thankful that the Ethiopian government values its relation with America. Amid such reality, it is unthinkable, that there would be forces that zero in on Ethiopia. Unfortunately there are and the latest one is Jonathan Tepperman of Newsweek. And he is smearing Ethiopia trying to put wrench between US-Ethio relationship. His latest article is full of misinformation about Ethiopia's democractic process, the state of Somalia and the relationship of Ethio-Eritrea. It is worthy looking in to all the unfounded allegations.
Ethiopia and Eritea
Eritrea is well known in destabilizing the horn. It invaded Ethiopia in 1998, it is playing destructive role in somalia by supporting Al-Shabab and has given shelter to the likes of Aweyes who are listed as terrorists. Eritea’s destabilizing role in Darfur is well known to Barack Obama well before he became president. Obama penned an op-ed in the Washington Post on December 27, 2005 that called for pressure on Eritea, among others, to “stop playing a destructive role in the conflict.” Eritea’s undeplomatic and destructive role is well known also to the UN which has come to taste the medicine when it call Eritrea to remove its forces from the disputed land in Djibouti and got a deaf ear response. With all this what is Jonathan Tepperman’s solution - reward Eritrea for its transgression by leaning hard on Ethiopia.
Democracy, political decent and Birtukan Medekisa
Mr. Tepperman is either ignorant of the fact or willfuly ignoring it when he states that the crime of Birtukan Medekisa is organizing a democratic challenge. He is also not talking about facts when he accuses the government of rigging elections, banning independent human-rights groups, passing a draconian press law or shrugging off calls for an investigation into alleged atrocities in the restive Ogaden region either!
Rigged Election: If this is to mean the 2005 election, it is not clear which assessment Mr. Tepperman is reading. The Carter Center has clearly indicated the ruling party, EPRDF, has won the majority and before the lady from Europe lost any credibility her assessment was that the election was of mixed bag while refuting the oppositions insistance that they have won the election (EU observer on 2005 election). The accusation about election 2005 is not of rigged election but heavy handedness in reaction to the riot that followed after the election. Election 2005 was exemplary and could have been more exemplary had the opposition refrained from going for the kill and demanded power be given to them disregarding the election results. Indeed the state department, which was keenly observing the event, called the opposition’s mob street action then as misguided. There were no election to be rigged nor will there be ground in Ethiopia for unconstitutional way.
Banning independent human-rights groups: It would have been informative to name a single human-rights group that is banned, but, Mr. Tepperman can’t list one because there is no single political group let alone human-right organization that are banned in Ethiopia.
Mr. Tepperman would have served better the democracy he professes for Ethiopia had he taken his time to read the press law which he labeled as draconian. The press law is almost carbon copy of the law that exists in the States. It would have been good has he explained to readers, with his infinite wisdom, how a law that is okay in the US is draconian in Ethiopia. The bigger picture is that that the old tired neo-liberal hubris that asserts, unless taken the dictates of the US, no country can draft and implement a law that it sees fit for itself. A journalist who lives in a country that is firm that its law be respected and forbids any foreign influence in any election cannot surely expect Ethiopia not to do the same. Indeed Ethiopia is a self-respecting country that would not give a chance to attempts of rigging election by forces who in the name of democratization props up organizations which they think will help their bidding once in power all over the world. The chicanery of NDI and IRI or the overthrow government organization’s of Gene Sharp will be met with rule of law and indigenous democracy.
Birtukan: She has neither the political experience nor the political clout better than those who are walking freely in Ethiopia and organizing to democratically challenge the ruling party. If the so called oppositions spend half of their time on informing their constituencies about their policy than finding foreign forces to install them in power from the corridors of congress and the white house they would have helped the democratization process in Ethiopia. Indeed Birtukan has been free to exercise her right and has been to the States to testify in congress and nothing happened to her. The problem is the lady during her European tour openly stated that she did not ask for pardon, (http://aigaforum.com/audiovideo/Birtukan_On_Pardon.asx) which effectively nullified the very reason of her pardon. Any self respecting country will have to address such glaring mockery of the rule of law and Ethiopia being a self respecting country did adhere to the law and revoked her pardon.
Ogaden: The fact of the matter is the Ethiopian government has gone out of its way to refute allegations of the Human Rights Watch and showed that the supposedly destroyed villages were intact and the supposedly dead people are alive. (http://www.mfa.gov.et/Press_Section/Press_Statement_26_November_2008.htm) There are no atrocities committed in Ogaden. Ethiopia has brave and very disciplined army that has shown its color in all peacekeeping operations. There are no scars like that of Abu Ghraib in Iraq with the Ethiopian Army.
Somalia: Mr. Tepperman’s article tries to portray as if Ethiopia has gone to Somalia to do American’s bidding. The truth is Ethiopia’s drive to Somalia was at the invitation of the then Somalia government. Second it went to Somalia to defuse the gathering threat of the ICU to Ethiopia’s national interest. At the time, contrary to Mr. Tepperman’s assertion, the then Al-Shabab group was part and parcel of the ICU, which also has some moderate Islamist. Looking back at the call for Jihad on Ethiopia by the ICU it was clear who was in control. Ethiopia’s intervention has effectively enabled the moderates to breakup form the hard liners making it easy for the transitional government of Somalia to make peace with the moderates and isolate the hardliners like the Al-Shabab. This is the very strategy the US is trying today in Afghanistan. The US is trying to make peace with the moderate Talibans hoping that will help to isolate Al-Qaida similar the way Ethiopia succeed to isolate Al-Shaba from ICU.
Ethiopia’s exemplary action in Somalia would have born more fruit for the Somali people has the UN made good of its promise and funded the peacekeeping force in Somalia and meddlers in the name of human-rights had not ignored the atrocities of the Al-Shabab on the Somali people become a megaphone to all Al-Shabab misinformation. Nevertheless Ethiopia has achieved its goal. What remains is for the Somali people to iron out their differences.
Ethiopia is following the path of democratization and is an island of stability in the horn. It is playing and would play leading role in Africa. No amount of smear campaign by hired guns and zealots in Congress will arm twist Ethiopia to dance to the tune of their liking. It is truly worthy of the phrase “with friends like this...” when on see continued attack and call for punitive action on Ethiopia and the very same people who are calling for such action visits Eritrea and lodge praises on the dictator for life Isayas Afeworki. Mr. Tepperman’s support for such process in Congress and support of Eritea is an indication that his own subtitle is fitting not for Ethiopia but himself and his ilks.
Jonathan Tepperman of Newsweek’s condescending, paternalistic advice, supported by nothing but factually challenged allegations, to the Obama administration to reset Ethiopia-US relation into antagonistic and adversarial relation can not be seen as nothing but an attempt to disrupt the good relations of the two counties. In the wake of Obama’s trip to Europe to underscore the fact that America will listen rather than dictate and reset US’s relation with other country on podium of mutual respect, Mr. Tepperman call for a stick is ill-advised and unwarranted and definitely not to the national interest of the United States.