by Roble Ababya
The dismal performance of the AU (African Union), since its establishment officially in Durban on the 9th of July 2002, is a burning issue especially to genuine intellectuals who have the interests of Africa at heart and the young generation who see their future blighted due to rampant corruption, inept leadership, contagious dictatorial rule and robbery of votes set in motion by the TPLF regime and spreading for example to Kenya and Zimbabwe whose leaders sought to emulate the method applied by Meles Zenawi in the aftermath of the 15 May 2005 Ethiopian election. It is my contention that failure on the part of the AU Leadership to condemn the illegitimate regime of Meles set a bad precedence ushering in an era of instability and abject poverty in countries under despotic rulers.
This piece is mainly meant for young readers that have stake in the background and performance of political institutions that define their future.
In fairness to the defunct OAU
I was still young when the now defunct Organization of African Unity was founded in Addis Ababa by 32 independent States on 25 May 1963. I was naïve in matters of politics at the time but I am a little wiser now to appreciate its detrimental effect in the hands of despotic leaders.
I recall the debate of the pros and cons of creating the OAU. There were outright oppositions by pundits on the payroll of foreign powers to the point of ridiculing it. On the other hand there were concerns in good faith that it was premature to embark on the exercise in view of the diverse cultures of the African people and grand size of the developing continent with pathetic transportation network and poor economy coupled with the intrigue of some diehard colonial masters to nip the Organization in the bud.
To be fair the OAU performed beyond expectations, against many odds, in fuelling the liberation struggle giving birth to independent states to the delight of jubilant others to welcome and register them as fellow members. I thank God that I saw this history of liberation struggle in the making.
It makes me proud as it does millions of my fellow citizens that the Headquarters of the OAU was decided to be located in the capital city of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa, founded by Emperor Menelik II – the Victor of the Battle of Adwa over Italy. This convincing victory over the evil forces of Italy in its own right became the beacon of hope for all black people in the Diaspora lending hope, inspiration and confidence to their struggle for freedom and independence. The seat of the OAU in our capital city is a living tribute also to the foresight and arduous work of Emperor Haile Selassie.
Ethiopia is also a founding member of the United Nations when Emperor Haile Selassie was at the helm of power. His Majesty was loyal to the UN and OAU Charters to the core. As part of commitment to Collective Security under the UN elite Ethiopian battalions were sent to Korea and Congo where they received glowing accolades for their professional acumen; a small military contingent was sent to Nigeria during the civil war incited by Biafra seeking cessation; the Emperor dispatched the Air Force to assist President Nyerere when the unity of Tanzania was threatened by an uprising in Zanzibar. Several liberation movement fighters including the distinguished Statesman Nelson Mandela were trained in Ethiopia.
Ethiopians are proud for the significant contribution their country had made to the noble struggle against colonialism and to the cause of unity when that is threatened by internal strife.
The foresight, intelligence, revolutionary fervor and commitment of some of the founders of the OAU such as Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana did not go well with diehard colonial masters addicted to sucking the wealth of the continent and slave labor of its people. They used every intrigue to undermine the Organization and some greedy leaders fell willing preys to those intrigues. The greed spread like cancer to the point of making the Organization impotent and good governance a mockery. In spite of all these, the OAU did commendably well.
Negative side of OAU
The bad governance seen in Ethiopia for the last 18 years needs to be singled out for its detrimental consequences not only to Ethiopia but also to the stability of the entire region of the Horn of Africa. Cardinal examples are:
Despite the fact that Ethiopia sacrificed her meager resources to help others gain their independence and maintain their territorial integrity in keeping with the OAU Charter, not a single member of the Organization whispered a word in public when Eritrea ceded from Ethiopia leaving it a land-locked country. Those who said anything in private blamed the cessation on the ruling TPLF regime who strongly solicited for that to happen;
Cessation of Eritrea brought neither respect to the OAU nor stability to the Horn of Africa. The fratricidal war of 1998 – 2000 between Ethiopia and Eritrea claimed 100 000 thousand lives on both sides not to speak of the number of injuries colossal damage to the economy, and danger to regional peace.
The OAU was unable to stop the carnage on both sides. Ethiopia’s contribution, as enumerated in the foregoing paragraphs, to the struggle for independence of fellow Africans under the yoke of imperialism unfortunately got little reciprocation – perhaps also partly because of the divisive exotic ideology intruding into our unique culture.
In full view of the AU
The TPLF regime was convincingly and overwhelmingly beaten at the polls in the historic election of 15 May 2005. Meles Zenawi unconstitutionally declared a state of emergency; votes were stolen and his party declared victory even before his electoral commission began to announce the results. The true victors of the election were brutally thrown into jail including the charismatic and intelligent Judge Birtukan Mideksa who is back again to that filthy jail for the second time.
What is really shocking is that the African Union which had sent its observers to the above said election pronounced the election free and fair and recognized the TPLF party as the winner. What is even more shocking is that one of the senior diplomats of the AU hailing from Rwanda overstepped diplomatic norms and blamed the opposition in public for the popular unrest in the aftermath of the election during which close to 200 were executed in cold blood and tens of thousands of mostly young Ethiopians were crammed into filthy jails with their heads shaved with un-sterilized razors. It is a shame that this Rwandan forgot so soon, in the comfort of luxury that dollar-paid diplomats enjoy in Addis Ababa, the close to one million victims of genocide in his country due to utterly bad governance of the kind exercised by TPLF by deliberately inciting and exacerbating ethnic and religious differences in a tolerant country where unity in diversity had lived in exemplary relative harmony for centuries.
When pressure was mounting on it to relax the political space by allowing the state monopoly of all pillars of democracy, the ruling regime unleashed naked invasion of Somalia to divert attention from domestic problems. This unprecedented invasion in the name of Ethiopia caused draconian damage to the lives of our Somali neighbors and left a deep wound that will take decades to heal. Sadly, however, the AU publicly sanctioned this brutal invasion on grounds that the regime had the right to defend itself.
The invading TPLF army was expelled from Somalia in defeat leaving the future stability of that country uncertain. The Meles army must have lost several of its soldiers, otherwise Meles would have bragged by revealing the loss of just a few. The refusal by the tyrant Meles to disclose the information to his own rubber-stamp parliament is utter contempt to: globally recognized democratic norms; the Ethiopian people; and the families of the dead and wounded in the war of aggression against Somalia.
History will hold the AU Leaders in part responsible for the humanitarian suffering of mammoth proportion such as the one that had occurred on their watch.
Ethiopians live in a large prison; our Somali brothers and sisters should not hold the rest of us responsible for we are denied of democratic rights to demonstrate publicly against the excesses of the brutal TPLF regime.
The debate on foreign aid
Donors claim that Africa received over one trillion US dollars in aid over the last 50 years. Still the continent carries a heavy debt estimated at 350 billion US dollars. The question is where has all that money gone. The popular belief is that more than 80% found its way back to the donors and the remaining went to the pockets of corrupt leaders or squandered on military weapons and training of subservient security forces answerable to their corrupt masters.
One would share the belief of Professor George Ayittey (prominent Ghanaian Professor of Economics at the American University) that “Africa would be better served by building accountable democratic institutions such as
Obviously none of the above exists in Ethiopia today under the secretive Stalinist regime of Meles Zenawi who stands among the worst dictators in the world.
Appeal to AU Leadership
The young generation has lost trust in the AU Leadership for all the reasons stated in the foregoing paragraphs. Corruption and wastage of money on security forces accountable to despotic leaders have dashed the hope of our young generation for a bright future in a prosperous and democratic continent endowed with enormous natural resources. The scramble by external powers for these resources is too obvious to state. The pervasive influence of neo-colonialism is being felt, but we have not prepared our citizens to counter it. With all due respect, the fault lies with the AU Leadership for failing to promote democratic culture and expedite the advent of a strong collaborative union in the best interest of all the citizens of the AU member States.
The hope of the young generation, Judge Birtukan Mideksa, was a child when Meles was a loyal disciple of Lenin, Stalin, Mao and Enver Hoxha. He was leading brain-washed peasants trained to kill their equally ignorant counterparts under the communist regime of Mengistu Hailemariam. She has nothing to do with the political mess created by successive regimes under which she grew up to emerge in her own right as a principled, intelligent and fair Judge as well as an able courageous and charismatic leader in the quest of the Ethiopian people for unity, justice and democracy. These national values being pursued in earnest by the people are odds with the atrocities being perpetrated by the brutal regime of Meles.
Judge Birtukan symbolizes a ray of hope for young generations. She is the leader of a popular political party committed to peaceful struggle for change. Her imprisonment for the second time leaving her four year old daughter in the care of over seventy years old mother is cruel because she has done nothing wrong except telling the whole truth which the Ethiopian people are entitled to know. She did not break any law; she is jailed in breach of the constitution which the ruling regime repeatedly breaks in full view of the AU and the international community.
Hundreds of political prisoners are held throughout Ethiopia. It is an open secret that political prisoners of the Oromo ethnic origin are the overwhelming occupants of filthy prisons infested with bugs and rodents.
The AU Leadership should not hide behind diplomatic veil and keep silent on the basic issues of grave violation of human rights perpetrated against Judge Birtukan and all political prisoners. The Leadership should openly condemn their jailors in breach of the constitution and demand unconditional and immediate release of all political prisoners.
The AU Leadership is morally and legally bound to reverse the destructive trend of bad governance which has had dire effect on the progress of the continent.
Zero tolerance for those holding political prisoners!
LONG LIVE ETHIOPIA!!!
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