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Nightmare in Ethiopia

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    U.S. about to awaken to a nightmare in Ethiopia Rampant thuggery has ended hopes of democracy By DULA ABDU
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 1, 2006
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      U.S. about to awaken to a nightmare in Ethiopia
      Rampant thuggery has ended hopes of democracy

      By DULA ABDU
      http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/editorial/outlook/3545530.html


      While the West celebrates the joys of Christmas, Africa's oldest
      independent nation, Ethiopia, is submerged in apocalyptic violence
      sponsored by the regime.

      The Daily Telegraph of London recently described repression of the
      opposition and the media as exceeding anything in the recent history
      of the continent of Africa, including that of Robert Mugabe of
      Zimbabwe and the apartheid era of South Africa.

      According to Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, paramilitary units
      continue to use random searches, beatings, mass arrests and lethal
      force against peaceful protesters. In Ethiopia, a crime against
      humanity is unfolding while the world either vacillates or lacks the
      will to stop it.

      In the face of threats, escalating violence by government forces ¡ª
      and without the protection of coalition forces ¡ª 26 million
      Ethiopians voted for the candidates of their choice last May.
      Unfortunately, many if not most of these duly elected representatives
      are in jail charged with treason, primarily for running in opposition
      to the regime.

      The charge is nothing more than an attempt to silence the opposition
      that won more than 80 percent of the popular vote in May.

      The regime of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has launched what the
      Daily Telegeraph correspondent describes as "a systematic onslaught
      against the majority of the Ethiopian people," save his Tigrean
      minority tribe in the north, after the Ethiopian people overwhelmingly
      rejected his regime in the last election.

      U.S. policy toward Africa is paradoxical. This country wants
      Africa's mineral resources and huge market potential, but ignores
      serious human rights abuses. It harbors dictators like Meles of
      Ethiopia to the detriment of its long-term interests. These interests
      include more than 100,000 U.S. jobs and an emerging market of 700
      million consumers.

      The Bush administration's rhetoric about democracy is confined to
      the sands of Iraq and to the mountains of Afghanistan. In Africa, even
      the rhetoric for democracy is subdued.

      Like the Clinton administrations before it, the Bush administration
      has failed to see that lack of human rights and democracy endanger
      Africa's economic potential and world stability. Clinton tried to wine
      and dine Africa's dictators to nudge them to move toward democracy,
      but he was disappointed. The Bush approach is worse; there is a
      near-total disregard for human rights and crime against humanity in
      Africa.

      Washington's response is lukewarm compared to that in Europe.

      The lack of a comprehensive global policy to fight terrorism and to
      foster democracy bedevils U.S. foreign policy, forcing it to turn a
      blind eye to tremendous crimes against humanity in Darfur, Ethiopia
      and other places in Africa and Asia.

      Since the May election Ethiopia ¡ª once a stable U.S. ally ¡ª has
      been racked with violence and turmoil. According to European Union
      research and investigation, the ruling Ethiopian Revolutionary
      Democratic Front lost the May election but decided to cling to power
      at any cost. The resulting cost to the Ethiopian people has been
      tremendous suffering.

      As random killings, beatings, lootings and mass arrests continue,
      the country is gripped in fear. The joy of a 90 percent voter turnout
      last May is turning into a nightmare.

      To add insult to injury, the independent media have been banned;
      state-owned television has shown pictures of journalists on the air as
      criminals wanted for treason for pieces they wrote against the
      regime's excess and oppressive conditions.

      So far, 89 people have been shot at point blank range for
      participating in peaceful street demonstrations and close to 70,000
      have been arrested as possible foes and put in remote prisons, where
      the death toll is mounting. According to the British newspaper The
      Observer, a number of people have died while in custody of government
      forces.

      Ethiopia, with more than 70 million people, has become a prison camp
      while the world has turned a blind eye. Prior to the recent crackdown
      and election fraud, Meles was even touted as one of Africa's rising
      leaders.

      His nemesis, Isias Afeworki of Eritrea, has also been listed as one
      of them. The United States recently placed sanctions on Eritrea.

      Both Isias of Eritrea and Meles were the one-time darlings of Jimmy
      Carter and other well-known Western leaders. This has given way to
      inertia in the West in stopping this crime against humanity from
      unfolding.

      If left untended, Ethiopia will implode, and the result will be a
      nightmare for the United States in its efforts to fight terrorism in
      the region, as well as for U.S. economic interests across Africa.

      The Bush administration needs to rein in Meles ¡ª not only for the
      sake of human rights, or democracy ¡ª but also to preserve its own
      strategic interest and to stop terrorism from spiraling out of control
      in the Middle East and in Africa.

      Abdu, originally from Africa, is a Houston-based writer on foreign
      policy.

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