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Ethiopia: The T-TPLF’s War on American NGOs – Alemayehu G. mariam

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Another T-TPLF disinformation campaign: This time against American NGOs
hailemariam-pix Over the past three weeks, I have been writing about the T-TPLF’s sneaky and crude disinformation campaigns of mass distraction to discredit the current massive uprising against its oppressive rule in Ethiopia.
This week I address the T-TPLF’s disinformation campaign that American NGOs (non-governmental organizations) are to blame for the current uprising in Ethiopia.
The latest disinformation campaign against American NGOs comes through the person of the T-TPLF puppet prime minister (PPT) (or is it crime minister?) Hailemariam Desalegn.
Last week, the PPM was frothing at the mouth reading the riot act to American nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) by lecturing and hectoring their supposed Ethiopian partners, lackeys and flunkeys in Ethiopia.
The T-TPLF passed its so-called Charities and Societies Proclamation in 2009 to “regulate” foreign NGOs operating in the country.
In 2011, the T-TPLF published a 91-page “Users’ Manual for the Charities and Societies Law”. It should have been more appropriately titled, “Red Tape and Hoops-to-Jump-Through Charities and Societies Law Manual.”
What a waste of paper! They could have summarized the whole 91-page manual in six simple words. “No civic societies and NGOs allowed in Ethiopia!” (At least not those that are not in the back pocket of the T-TPLF.)
NGOs are part of what are commonly referred to as civil society organizations. Such organizations include charities, community associations and groups, women’s and youth organizations, religious organizations, professional associations, trade unions, business associations and a variety of other self-help and advocacy groups. The NGO movement began to expand in the mid-1980s in response to social injustice and inequality issues in repressive states, including the former communist countries. NGOs often promote ideas and practices of local empowerment, political participation and increased democratization in society. They help the poor and dispossessed gain influence in the policy process. I do not consider these activities to be crimes, but the T-TPLF criminals do.
The T-TPLF today is intensifying its war on American NGOs as part of a broader strategy to discredit and undermine the credibility of the widespread uprising against its corrupt rule in Ethiopia.
The T-TPLF first blamed “Shabya” (Eritrea) as inciters of the current uprising.
Then they added Middle Eastern interests (particularly Egypt) as the invisible hands behind the uprising .
Then they pointed an accusatory finger at the Ethiopian Diaspora (particularly those in the United States) and international human rights organizations as the trouble makers.
Now, the T-TPLF is training its big guns on the already decimated American NGO’s.
Blame the American NGOs for all the turmoil and unrest in Ethiopia blabbed the PPM in his usual underhanded way.
The PPM accused the American NGOs of every conceivable wrongdoing.
He virtually called them “The Illuminati” of Africa– evil foreign secretive societies conspiring to push a hidden agenda of regime change, regime destabilization and regime replacement in Ethiopia (and Africa) by fomenting unrest, anarchy and chaos.
Of course, the PPM did not have the evidence (I did not say the guts) to come out publicly and accuse the American NGO’s of criminal wrongdoing directly.
He chose to send his scurrilous message to them by innuendo, hints, allegations, insinuation and allusions and by lecturing, hectoring, badgering, baiting and browbeating Ethiopians working with the American NGOs.
To understand the PPM’s direct message to the NGOs and indirect message to the American government, one has to carefully deconstruct and dissect his coded message.
The PPT depicted NGOs as agents of American imperialism lurking in the shadows masterminding conspiracies and intrigues to overthrow the T-TPLF and install their own puppet regime.
The PPT said the American NGO’s operating in Ethiopia are rich and throw their money around to control and manipulate Ethiopian politics.
The PPT charged the American NGOs were the fifth column (enemy moles and Trojan horses) muddling in, stirring up and muddying Ethiopian politics. They must be stopped at all costs.
The PPT declared American NGOs make him feel like he wants to vomit. (He literally said that!)
The PPT warned American NGOs to steer clear of Ethiopian politics or else.
The PPT even invoked the warrior spirit of the “forefathers” to threaten the American NGOs that they will suffer the same ignominious fate the Italian colonial invaders suffered in the last two centuries.
Ethiopian politics is only for Ethiopians, blathered the PPM.
The PPT threw everything, including the kitchen sink, at the American NGOs.
But what sins or crimes did the American NGOs commit to deserve such a public trashing and thrashing?
Why is the PPM making the American NGOs his whipping boys today?
I do not believe American NGOs are the saviors of Africa or the guardians of Ethiopia.
I certainly do not believe they are the evil, malicious, wicked and malevolent organizations the PPM depicted them to be.
I know personally a whole lot of them who do good work in Ethiopia. They just want to do their work within the law and without interference and pressure from the T-TPLF.
The fact of the matter is that the TPLF which is today suppressing and decimating NGOs in Ethiopia today was sucking at the tits of the American NGOs in the mid-1980s when they were running around in the bush playing soldiers.
In 1984, when normal delivery of emergency humanitarian aid to the Tigrai region was made impossible by Derg (junta) bombardment, the TPLF worked hand in glove with various American NGOs to find alternate routes to deliver relief aid to famine victims in rebel-controlled areas. That is when the TPLF set up a scam called the “Relief Society of Tigrai” (REST) to skim and launder American NGO money for the TPLF leadership. REST was organized as a small group of “grain merchants” to rip-off the American NGOs. REST became EFFORT (Endowment Fund for the Rehabilitation of Tigrai) in 1995 and is now a monopoly with a chokehold on Ethiopia’s economy.
What is important to realize it the fact that the T-TPLF today is the very creation of American NGOs. But for American NGOs money and political support, there would have been no TPLF today.
Gayle E. Smith, Obama’s current USAID Chief was an employee of REST. Need I say more?
According to a May 1991 Christian Science Monitor report: “One of the few Westerners who speaks the Tigre language and has had many contacts with Zenawi over a nine-year period, is Gayle Smith, an American who worked for Tigre’s relief agency, REST, during the 1985-6 drought.” (Emphasis added.)
You can read all about it in my May 2011 Huffington Post commentary (complete with a photo of TPLF leaders counting pile-high greenbacks [American dollars]) “Licensed to Steal” and June 2015 commentary, “Does Africa Need Gayle Smith?”.
Now the holier-than-thou PPM wants to lecture American NGOs on how bad and evil they are. A dog should never bite the hand that feeds it!
What is even more amazing is the fact that the PPM threatened to visit death and destruction on the American NGOs in the same manner the “forefathers” did to the Italian colonial aggressors in 1896 at the Battle of Adwa and in 1935.
This is the same PPM and his T-TPLF who have claimed over the past 25 years that Ethiopia’s history is just one hundred years old and its flag a “piece of rag”. They have demonized and vilified Ethiopia’s past imperial leaders who kept the country free from colonial domination. The T-TPLF used Emperor Menelik II as a strawman in its divide and rule strategy for a quarter century, but now they want to be the warrior descendants of Emperor Menelik against white American NGOs.
I know for a fact that the PPM and his T-TPLF believe that the Ethiopian people are damned fools. But Ethiopians are not fools.
But the PPM is free to lead the T-TPLF parade of fools over the cliff twirling a baton.
I strongly disagree with the PPM’s view that American NGOs are some sort of radical agitators hellbent on sedition, dissent, insurrection, insurgency, uprisings and revolution in Ethiopia.
There is no evidence whatsoever to support the PPM’s mindless and reckless allegations that American NGOs operate in Ethiopia with the singular purpose of destabilizing Ethiopia and controlling its political process.
It is said that for the man walking around with a hammer, everything looks like a nail.
For a man who has been walking around with a hammer smashing opposition political parties and trashing the free press in Ethiopia, lashing out at American NGOs is just another nail to hammer.
The PPM’s view on American NGOs operating in Ethiopia is absolutely ridiculous. He should be ashamed of himself for maliciously and unfairly tarring and feathering American NGOs in Ethiopia who have historically done a pretty good job of helping and empowering the ordinary people in a variety of areas.
So the million dollar question is, “Why is the PPM spreading malicious disinformation on American NGOs?”
Has the PPM just gone whack?
What is the PPM’s evidence supporting his reckless, mindless and devil-may-care allegations and justifying his disgraceful condemnation and denunciation of American NGOs?
The PPM unloaded:
The second and the issue most people don’t agree on is that political mobilization should be for the mobilization of the Ethiopian people. That is the fundamental principle we follow in our struggle. One of the issues that has created considerable controversy is that which says you must generate ten percent (of the revenue to operate an NGO from outside) inside the country. That’s the law. Nothing new there.
If (the notion is that) new in-country structures (NGOs) must work in politics to get experience, they can only get ten percent outside. Our thinking is that the outsiders who give money are rich. Therefore, we believe our Ethiopian politics must be conducted by its citizens. Just because an American organization gave money (and think) they can stir Ethiopian politics, it’s is not possible.
By the way, here is all that stuff about Adwa and this and that. It comes here and makes us want to vomit. It cannot be. We Ethiopians ourselves must do our own politics. You will not be able to play the game that you have been playing on other Africans on us. You can’t do it.
When you want regime change, it is not the Ethiopian people that make regime change but those with money (NGOs) who organize a particular group. They go out to color revolutionary square and say the government that squeezed surrenders its hands and in the end announce the government has given up type of situation. You will not see that situation in Ethiopia. Our forefathers have not done such things. And we will not give up either. It is only Ethiopians who must play Ethiopian politics.
There is no politics that a foreign power can spin in Ethiopia. This is not something likable. Clearly, this is not likable. If they could, they will not hesitate and dismantle the government. But how could they? We are not going to look at those who play this kind of game quietly.
So, you (Ethiopians who want to work with NGOs) will only get ten percent. You can call it experience. Gather up ninety percent by yourself. Why? The Ethiopian Orthodox Church was able to build such beautiful buildings. It is not with foreign money; architecturally and in terms of the amount of money, it is built with the money of the faithful who have faith. If you want to do politics, convince the people. Just like people with faith who build churches, convince people to give you money.
There is no shortage of money in Ethiopia. There is a shortage of faith. If it was a shortage of money, in every city, this many churches, these kinds of beautiful churches, expensive churches will not be built. These are the people you want to advance in politics. So if you ask these people for money, they will give you money if they believe in the politics. If they believe.
There is no way to go on Fereji (White people) people’s road. It’s OK. Take ten percent from Ferenjis. There are problems. Shortage of dollars. Take ten percent. But you can’t go beyond that. That’s the law.
This has damaged the private interests of many people. It has prevented a lot of money that could have come to people benefiting them. It has cut the hands of those people who want to stick their hands and stir our politics. If you go into social media, you will find all that. You will find information which says Ethiopian law is stifling. The law called charities and societies is oppressive. It is suffocating. It’s everywhere. We have not surrendered up to right now.
It is not suffocating. Try, try. Try to do the politics in the country. That is the situation. To conduct our country’s politics in our country. Once we trust each other. You need to bring alternatives which show we can do that without outside involvement. If such an alternative is brought, we are ready to talk. However, after bringing 90 percent of the money from Americans, if you are going to say you are going to establish a local NGO that works in politics we will not accept that. End of case.
My initial reaction to the PPM’s tirade against American NGOs
The last time I heard a T-TPLF leader spewing so much rhetorical venom against an American institution was in 2010 when the late leader of the T-TPLF, thugmaster Meles Zenawi (TMZ) lashed out at the Voice of America- Amharic Program and accused them of promoting genocide in Ethiopia. TMZ said:
We have been convinced for many years, that in many respects, the VOA Amharic Service has copied the worst practices of radio stations such as Radio Mille Collines of Rwanda in engaging in destabilising propaganda.
TMZ must have gone completely whack when he recklessly made that allegation. (I did not say he was high on k’hat.) Is it possible for any sane person, let alone a “leader”, to publicly allege that a civilian agency of the American government which provides news and information to 190 million people worldwide every week in 45 languages would single out, select and plot to promote genocide in Ethiopia?!
PPM Hailemariam today says:
When you want regime change, it is not the Ethiopian people that make regime change but those with money (NGOs) who organize a particular group. Just because an American organization gave money (and think) they can stir Ethiopian politics, it’s is not possible. There is no politics that a foreign power can spin in Ethiopia. There is no way to go on Fereji (White people) people’s road. It’s OK. Take ten percent from Ferenjis. You will not see that situation in Ethiopia. Our forefathers have not done such things. After bringing 90 percent of the money from Americans, if you are going to say you are going to establish a local NGO that works in politics we will not accept that. End of case.
Was PPM Hailemariam on k’hat when he made his wild allegations about American Ferenji NGOs (White Americans) trying to take over Ethiopian politics?
This is not the first time the PPM has gone completely whack.
Back in 2013, the PPM was madder than a wet hen running around the African Union jabbering something about “race hunting” during the International Criminal Court (PPM) trial of prime crime against humanity suspect Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya. The case against Kenyatta and his vice president William Ruto was an open and shut case. (See my commentary, Kenyatta at the ICC: Is Justice Deferred, Justice Denied?)
The PPM said he “objects” to the ICC proceedings against Kenyatta because the ICC has “degenerated into some kind of race-hunting”. He effectively argued that white judges sitting in The Hague are “hunting” African leaders like African game. Sheer rubbish.
The PPM’s allegations were patently false. The chief ICC prosecutor prosecuting Kenyatta and Ruto was Fantou Besouda, a black African woman lawyer from The Gambia. Out of the 18 ICC judges (and one ad litem), 4 are from Africa, 4 from Latin America, 3 from Asia, and 8 from European countries. Seven of the ICC judges are women.
The PPM produced not a shred of evidence to support his claim of ICC degeneracy into race hunting. But he thought he could pull the race card and scare off “white folks” from talking about his brotherhood of criminals against humanity. The PPM thought that he could shame the “white judges ” into backing down by pulling out the race card. Ironically, in the end Kenyatta flipped the bird at the ICC and walked out with a help of a few friends in very high places. (I did not say white friends.)
I am proud to say that I did not let him get away with it. In successive commentaries, I demonstrated beyond a shadow of doubt that the PPM was simply playing the race card. (See e.g. my October 2013 commentary, “Saving African Dictators From the ICC” and my September 2013 commentary, “The International Criminal Court on an African Safari?”)
Of course, I knew what was eating the PPM when he so vociferously objected to the ICC prosecution of Kenyatta. The PPM could read the handwriting on the wall. After Kenyatta and Ruto, who? There is an old Ethiopian saying, “When they talk about the other person, listen attentively as though they are speaking about you.”
It is no different now. The PPM is imagining White American NGOs “race hunting” him and his TPLF thugs right out of power.
Is this a simple case of thugs gone wild? Whack?
The old saying is that “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” But for the T-TPLF and their PPM, when the going gets tough, they pull out the race card and shout “race hunting” and ethnic card and whine “genocide is about to take place”.
But what’s really eating the PPM with the American NGO attack?
Does he seriously believe that white Americans who run the various NGOs in Ethiopia (or who want to operate in the country) are interested in overthrowing the T-TPLF and install their own indigenous puppet regime? I am asking this question of the PPM because I do not believe there is a more qualified person on the planet to answer a question on puppetry than the PPM himself.
But I have a hunch.
Could it be that the Obama Administration is leaning heavily on the PPM and his T-TPLF, telling them to cool it with the massacres and all?
Is the hatchet job on the American NGOs an indirect means of sending a defiant message to the Obama Administration?
I don’t know for sure, but I would not be surprised if the Obama Administration is telling the PPM and the T-TPLF to take it easy: “Chill, boys. You are making us look bad with all the killing!”
It is no secret that the American government has been pressuring the T-TPLF to stop its indiscriminate massacres and wholesale arrests and detentions.
A couple of weeks ago, Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, expressed “grave concerns” about the “excessive use of force against protesters in Ethiopia.” Power described the T-TPLF “violence” as “extremely serious” and called for a transparent and independent investigation. Power said “the U.S. has asked the government to allow people to protest peacefully.” That is diplomatic-speak telling the T-TPLF to cut it out. No more massacres.
In August, Tom Malinowski, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor and Obama’s global messenger of democracy and human rights declared the T-TPLF’s “tactics in response to protests in the Oromia and Amhara regions of the country are ‘self-defeating’”. That’s diplomatic-speak for, “If the T-TPLF does not stop the massacres, it should prepare for a boomerang.” That is a return to the Hammurabic Code of “an eye for an eye”.
The continuing T-TPLF war on NGOs and civil society organizations in Ethiopia
A July 2016 Freedom House report warned that “civil society is under renewed attack” in Ethiopia.
Freedom House reported:
In June [2016], the Charities and Societies Agency, the government body that regulates nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), announced that it had shut down more than 200 NGOs in the last nine months. The announcement followed the agency issuing a directive that seeks to impose penalties for noncompliance with the CSP. By issuing this directive, the agency effectively gave itself quasi-judicial powers in criminal proceedings. By paving the way for increased imposition of penalties, the Charities and Societies Agency will further undermine civil society’s ability to operate independently.
While the government continues to take measures that undermine civil society, popular support for civil society remains strong. According to a recent online survey conducted by Freedom House, two-thirds of those polled believe that civil society organizations should engage in human rights and democracy promotion. The survey also found that Ethiopians are unaware of the significant challenges facing civil society and of the crippling effects of the CSP. The survey findings underscore how a blackout of information from independent sources and constrained civic space curtail citizens’ ability to organize and participate in matters that affect their daily lives.
Years of government attacks, relentless smear campaigns, and extremely cumbersome rules and regulatory frameworks have crippled Ethiopia’s civil society. NGOs are denied access to resources and the ability to network with each other and mobilize support. As demand for democratic reforms in Ethiopia gains momentum, a vibrant civil society will be essential.
In 2008, Human Rights Watch (HRW) warned the T-TPLF “law” would decimate NGOs in Ethiopia. HRW concluded the T-TPLF charities “law” would make “illegal campaigning for gender equality, children’s rights, disabled persons’ rights, conflict resolution and judicial and law enforcement capacity-building.” It aims to “intimidate and dismantle the country’s already-beleaguered civil society actors and criminalize human rights-related work carried out by international organizations.”
There is actually nothing new in the renewed T-TPLF attack on NGOs operating in Ethiopia. For the past seven years, NGOs have been under the T-TPLF gun in Ethiopia.
Prior to 2009, there were reportedly some 3,822 registered civil society organizations in Ethiopia, but in 2013 there were no more than 1,500.
According to one list, today there are less than one hundred active NGOs operating in Ethiopia.
A comprehensive study on NGOs and civil society organizations by Abiy Chelkeba Worku and the impact of the T-TPLF charities law demonstrated that the T-TPLF “law” has made the establishment and registration of civil society and non-governmental organizations in Ethiopia “much harder”, and has significantly and adversely impacted their service deliveries.
I am not a stranger to the NGO issue.
In 2008, I came to the defense of NGO’s operating in Ethiopia. In my October 2008 commentary entitled, “Biting the Hands That Feed Millions”, I challenged TMZ to produce evidence to support his allegations that American NGOs are sinister, mischievous, malevolent forces visiting ruin and destruction on Ethiopian politics.
TMZ could not produce a smidgen of evidence to support his genocide allegations against the Voice of America.
The PPM today could not produce a smidgen of evidence to support his allegations against NGOs operating in Ethiopia.
In my view, the T-TPLF’s objection to the American NGOs is that these organizations refuse to be T-TPLF flunkeys, lackeys, mouthpieces and tools at the grassroots levels and in the international media.
If the NGOs were at the beck and call of the T-TPLF and sing the T-TPLF’s praises, they would be lionized and glorified. If the NGOs took their marching orders and played the T-TPLF’s games make-believe democracy and helped the T-TPLF avoid and evade domestic and international accountability, they would have had free rein.
I am no fan of USAID. My regular readers know that I have been a relentless and implacable critic of that agency for years. But there is one thing I am willing to credit USAID.
USAID indeed “emphasizes support for civil-society organizations whose advocacy efforts give voice to citizens and increase their influence on the political process” because it believes “democratic political culture requires a vibrant civil-society sector and an independent media to ensure that citizens are well informed about the actions and performance of government institutions and officials, and that citizens have the means to freely influence public policies.”
In April 2015, Barack Obama at the Civil Society Forum said:
So civil society is the conscience of our countries. It’s the catalyst of change. It’s why strong nations don’t fear active citizens. Strong nations embrace and support and empower active citizens.
And, increasingly, civil society is a source of ideas — about everything from promoting transparency and free expression, to reversing inequality and rescuing our environment. And that’s why, as part of our Stand with Civil Society Initiative, we’ve joined with people around the world to push back on those who deny your right to be heard. I’ve made it a mission of our government not only to protect civil society groups, but to partner with you and empower you with the knowledge and the technology and the resources to put your ideas into action.
So let me just say, when the United States sees space closing for civil society, we will work to open it. When efforts are made to wall you off from the world, we’ll try to connect you with each other. When you are silenced, we’ll try to speak out alongside you. And when you’re suppressed, we want to help strengthen you. As you work for change, the United States will stand up alongside you every step of the way. We are respectful of the difference among our countries. The days in which our agenda in this hemisphere so often presumed that the United States could meddle with impunity, those days are past. (Emphasis added.)
In July 2015, Obama visited Ethiopia and said:
I don’t bite my tongue too much when it comes to these issues. We are opposed to any group that is promoting the violent overthrow of a government, including the government of Ethiopia, that has been democratically elected. We are very mindful of Ethiopia’s history – the hardships that this country has gone through. It has been relatively recently in which the constitution that was formed and the elections put forward a democratically elected government.” (Emphasis added.)
The day after Obama said he does not “bite his tongue”, he stood before the African Union and said African leaders could only “have democracy in name” so long as “journalists are put behind bars for doing their jobs, or activists are threatened as governments crack down on civil society.”
Why do snakes have forked tongues?
Some afterthoughts…
The T-TPLF continues to commit crimes against humanity and has decimated the free press and civic society institutions in Ethiopia with the material and moral support of Barack Hussein Obama.
After the T-TPLF declared it had won all 547 seats in its rubber stamp parliament, Barack Obama traveled to Ethiopia and declared the T-TPLF regime is democratic.
After the T-TPLF massacred thousands of Ethiopians over the past year, Barack Obama’s stony silence has been deafening.
On September 28, 2016, Barack Obama’s Treasury Department slapped sanctions on “two individuals for threatening the stability and undermining the democratic process in the Democratic Republic of the Congo” by “suppressing political opposition in the country, often through violent means.”
Yet, the hypocrite Barack Obama has imposed no sanctions and in fact turned deaf ears, blind eyes and muted lips as the T-TPLF massacres and slaughters Ethiopians by the tens of thousands.
Where are Obama’s sanctions on the top T-TPLF syndicate members including Debretsion Gebremichael, Samora Yunis, Sebhat Nega, Tedros Adhanom, Seyoum Mesfin, Arkebe Oqubay, Abay Tsehaye, Abadi Zemo, Tsegay Berhe, Azeb Mesfin, Haftom Abraha, Redwan Hussien, Hailemariam Desalegn…. ?
Barack Obama has not met an African dictator he did not like. He has been telling the people of Africa that he is on the right side of history.
But Barack Obama has been standing tall on the side of practically every bloodthirsty African dictator and thugtator throughout his presidency.
The blood of innocent Ethiopians who have been T-TPLF massacre victims is on Obama’s hands too. He cannot say like Pontius Pilate, “I am innocent of the blood of the innocents.”
Ethiopians believe the blood of innocent Ethiopians who have been massacred by the T-TPLF is on Obama’s hands.
There may be Obama Care, but I am damn sure Obama cares not for Africa.
I can imagine some people will have a difficult time handling the truth about the first African American president who couldn’t care less about Africans. All I can say is, “Deal with it!”
During the concert for the victims of Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana, Kanye West expressing the popular frustration over the federal government’s failure to help storm victims on live TV declared, “George Bush doesn’t care about black people!”
I do not know if West’s statement about George Bush is true or false.
But I can sure as hell say that George Bush cared about African people. “At more than $5 billion a year in humanitarian aid to Africa, President Bush has given more assistance to the continent than any other president. His administration’s aid was largely targeted to fight the major global health issues facing the continent, HIV/AIDS and malaria.”
Get a load of the facts about what Barack Obama has (not) done for Africa here .
The bottom line is money talks and … walks.
As Obama walks out of the presidency, I do not wonder if he cares about African people!
Not at all!