World must act before the Beast

By Aie Zi Guo

July 12, 2006 — After Auschwitz the international community made a collective promise to defend humanity. Fifty years after the community witnessed multiple madness and abuse of humanity by mindless dictators from Rwanda to Srebrenica, Darfur to Chile, Ethiopia to Cambodia, and Iraq to Chad. The ghosts of dictators haunt millions of children. Their names have become scarecrow for school age children allover the world.

Yet again in the 21 st century where fiber optics and internet technology transformed our lives, we continue witnessing the proliferation of new breeds of ruthless dictators like Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia. To ascend and cling to power, they have exterminated scores of innocent people, wasted immense resources, and destroyed the cultural and human values of their nations. They killed and imprisoned thousands of their opponents, tortured civilians, mutilated children, raped women and executed many without trials. They buried their victims in mass graves denying them the minimum human curtsey expected of Homo sapiens. They have pulled the triggers of genocide and ignited the chambers of torture.

Like a child playing Entendo games, they watched the act of torture of prisoners by their mindless prison wardens, army and police officers from their palace chairs. For them it is as easy as one two three to decided the fate of their nation from lavish limousine seats chatting with their concubines or drinking whisky with their likeminded people. As a result children were orphaned, women were widowed, and thousands were killed and maimed. Their societies have been paralyzed to melancholy indiscriminately. The level of torture is gruesome to account. Their actions are no different from Hitler, Sadaam or Charles Taylor.

What is shocking and surprising is that UN member states seated at the 2nd floor of the UN head quarters in New York watched the madness of dictators with utter indifference. When one is indifferent to the suffering of others, one has indeed taken a moral stand. A moral stand which says, the life or pain of poor people is of no consequences. Consequently, the international community gave lip services with diplomatic jargons of restrain and containment strategies.

Unashamed of their deeds, dictators sat shoulder to shoulder with Western diplomats in international conferences, workshops and meetings to discuss wide ranging issues from human rights to sustainable development and International terrorism to peace and stability. For example African dictators sat with G8 countries to discuss the New Partnership for Africa’s Development initiative in Kananaskis Canada, the Millennium Development Goal in Galingales with Tony Blair and EU, poverty reduction and sustainable development with WB, and international terrorism with President Bush at the White House. They are signatories of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and Convention against Discrimination in Education. More than ever they continue to abuse their women, keep their population illiterate and starve their children to death

Interestingly and under the banned wagon of international diplomacy, diplomats of the so called civilized world attended receptions and tossed friendship champagnes with modern day butchers. The hand shakes and champagne for diplomacy and containment coupled by their unfettered access to western goods and services have emboldened the hearts and minds of dictators. To this end African and Asian dictators who failed to trust their own financial institutions are encouraged to keep their embezzled monies in American and European banks. They are allowed to vacation in western countries often with full diplomatic immunity. Dictators who pressure their people to send children to local schools are allowed to send theirs to prestigious western institutions of learning often at the expense of starving children.

Many are permitted to buy lobby firms in America and Europe to advocate their causes of genocide and tyranny with western governments. A case in point would be the regime of Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia who hired DLA Piper Rudnick Gray Cary to provide legislative, regulatory and PR services to the Government of Ethiopia. God knows for how long, the firm will receive $50,000 a month or $600,000/annum for its services. At current prices this can buy 150,000 impregnated mesquite nets for the entire families of the residents of Bahir Dar,Ethiopia. In a country where 81.9% of the Population earns below $1 a day, spending exorbitant sums of money to pay rich lobby firms is absolute madness. The firms are greedy profiteers who sell their decency and moral values for sheer personal gain. They should understand that the money they are receiving from Meles’ regime is money taken from starving children of Ethiopia on whose behalf the UN is asking donors for help. What else would be more shameful than to defend a dictatorial regime?

Moreover, Ethiopia is ruled by a minority ethnic group whose members are genetically close to Meles Zenawi’s family. In the 3000 years of its history this is the first time that Ethiopia is ruled by a single family member and a single ethnic group. These ruling elites between them have national assets (excluding their fluid net worth of assets in American, European and Asian Banks) $225 million. At current prices this can buy 57 million impregnated mosquito nets sufficient to protect 77 million Ethiopians from Malaria. Or in monetary terms it constitutes 30% of WFP’s US$763 million budget for its relief and recovery operation for a three year period, from January 2005 to December 2007 in Ethiopia. To add insult to injury the Ethiopian Ambassador in Washington requested his government to send him $20,000 to meet his expenses for compiling the list of names and photos of pro-democracy protesters in Washington and elsewhere in the US. On the contrary, we see that Microsfot co-founder and Chairman Bill Gates devotes most of his time and wealth to philanthropic foundations he established in 2000. Whereas leaders like Meles Zenawi use public and World Bank funds to suffocate democracy. They drain the resources of their people and approach the widerworld to ask for humanitarian and development aid. They use international aid and loan to buy military hard ware to sustain the rule of genocide and dictatorship.

One wonders why President Bill Clinton called Meles and others as the new breeds of African leaders for the renaissance of African democracy. Africans continue wondering how the Bush and Blair administration partnered with these leaders in the fight against international terrorism while they terrorise their own people. It is time to pause and reassesses the moral values of the United States of America and Great Britain.

More surprising is the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund willingness to reward dictators with huge loans and credits for a job well done in castrating democracy, the rule of law and good governances. Recently, the World Bank granted the dictatorial regime of Meles Zenwai of Ethiopia $1.05 billion dollar. But Meles uses this fund to collect the names and photos of pro-democracy demonstrators at the door steps of the World Bank offices and the white House. Knowing full well the atrocities of Meles Zenawai, it is shameful and equally sinful of the WB to crown a dictator with such large sum of money.

So far Western nations who often expose the atrocities and human rights abuses of dictators in their annual human rights report of nations have often failed to take concrete steps. It is, therefore, important to stop business as usual and do some serious business of disaster prevention. In this context, the trial of Saddam Hussein, Slobodan Milosevic and Charles Taylor is a welcome omen. Nevertheless it is something too good that came too late at the expenses of too many innocent lives. It is a pity that the west remained a sleeping giant while genocide, miscarriage of justice, abuse of power and torture took place at the doorsteps of their respective embassies for so long. This is a regrettable diplomatic episode that aught to be condemned and not condoned. There should be no diplomatic and moral generosity of complacence to dictators. Financial institutions should not be keen to hide the monies embezzled by African and Asian Heads of States. Meles and his surrogates who are considered as the darling democrats of African Nations are cold-blooded murderers whose security forces hunt and kill innocent citizens.

Finally “Every year, about US$15 billion pours out of Africa, a sum that equals international aid. As the money comes in, capital flows out into Western Banks. Every year, 70,000 of Africa’s brightest and best leave to work abroad, and 100,000 foreign “experts” come to work in Africa.”There is no need of telling African leaders to do capacity building while they are torturing their expertise daily. In the Ethiopian context no capacity building or development agenda will be achieved when the effects of poverty and lack of individual and collective freedom is at stake. Multilateral and bilateral donors should not lend money or provide aid to reinforce tyranny. The community that said no to Auschwitz should be able to say no dictatorship. There should be no sanctuary to corrupt and undemocratic leaders who loot the resources of the people whom they were destined to serve. The developing world is sick and tired of the continuednaivety and complacence of the international community. In unison Africans demand the international community to act before the beast makes colossal damages. Acting after the fall of dictators is just like a dog barking after the enemy left its barracks. That is why the Ethiopian Diaspora and the Ethiopian people demand the Bush administration to approve HR 5680, the “Ethiopia Freedom, Democracy, and Human Rights Advancement Act of 2006” and implement in earnest. If approved, the Act will send clear messages to Meles Zenawi and other members of the AU in Addis Ababa who are champions of terrorizing and looting their peoples.

The writer is an economist who is interested on international affairs particularly on Ethiopia. He resides in Canada. He can be reached at [email protected]