Ethiopia: The West’s Futile Attempt to Save a Crumbling Regime
23 February 2018
Serawr Information and Research Centre
The current ruling regime in Ethiopia is crumbling due to the massive popular protests, which have gripped the country for the last three years. In the last decade the world has witnessed public uprisings bringing governments down. What makes this more unique is that the Western governments have been heavily protecting this regime through significant financial and political supports to remain in power.
Moreover, Ethiopia’s popular protests started well before the Arab spring. When the regime stole the Ethiopian people’s vote in the 2005 election, they took to the streets to demonstrate, and were met with bullets killing hundreds of people.
The then US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Jendayi Frazer, assisted the regime in managing the crises by giving a political cover internationally and in neutralising the opposition internally. But the allies of the regime have only managed to prolong its power and the sufferings of the Ethiopian people.
Ethiopia’s popular protests are more persistent and much larger than the protests in both Libya and Syria put together. When one recalls how these crises were played out in the Western media, and the condemnations and all forms of actions including military ones that followed from the Western leaders; and now looks at how the regime in Ethiopia has been protected, it demonstrates the Western double standard, and how out of touch they are to the developments on ground.
Of course, here it must be pointed out that Ethiopia’s popular protests are genuine popular demands for democracy and justice, whereas the above mention protests were instigated by Isis and al-Qaedai insurgents and armed by the US/NATO to destabilize the Libyan and Syrian governments and in the end bring about regime-change through intervention.
Let us now look at the statements that have been released from the EU and the UK in regards the crisis – namely the resignation of Ethiopia’s Prime Minster Hailemariam Desalegn and the imposition the new State of Emergency by the regime that followed.
While both the statements express disappointment by “the decision to impose a new State of Emergency”, but they only went on mentioning their hope “it will be in place for as short a time as possible”. Whereas, the American Embassy in Ethiopia released a stronger statement expressing disagreement with the decision, which is significant shift from their previous position.
The EU statement is rather laughable. The statement assumes as though Mr Hailemariam Desalegn had a real authority. He was appointed to the position after the death of Prim Minster Meles Zenawi on the advice of the USA officials. It was a symbolic gesture that was meant to address the total domination of all aspects of power by the minority ethnic Tigrayan, who only make up 6 percent of the Ethiopian population.
The laughable part of the statement states: “It will be important for the new government to have the full capacity to pursue the positive reforms initiated by the Prime Minster”. By no means, can an appointment of another Prim Minster be considered as a new government in Ethiopia’s context. It will be the same minority rule that fully controls the security, the military and the economic powers.
The Western governments need to understand that the Ethiopian people have gone through profound change in their level of awareness and organisation; which came about through the very painful experiences of the bloodshed and oppression of over two decades.
There is an analogy that might fit to this point. A tourist was hit by a car while crossing in Zebra crossing in Italy. While getting treatment in the hospital he was made aware of the saying that goes:
“Traffic lights are instructive in France, Suggestion in Spain, and decorative in Italy”.
In the same way, initially the Ethiopian people expected the Western countries to stand on their side in their darkest hours – taking their much preached values and rule of law at a face value. The Ethiopian people had to learn the bitter reality that these preached values and rule of law are only instructive, when it suits their perceived interests, they become suggestions, when present arrangements suits them, and they become decorative, when the offending regime is their ally as the regime ruling Ethiopia happens to be.
The Western media have also been acting as an extension wing of the Western foreign policy on Ethiopia. While they sensationalised and glorified the protests in Libya and Syria, the protests in Ethiopia were largely ignored. When the issue receives some coverage, it is rather to downplay the significance of the protests, and putting a positive spin for the regime – by glorifying how the regime presided over the fastest economic growth in Africa and presenting tactical concessions of the regime as real.
Consequently, the Ethiopian people have successfully adapted to the reality that they can only bring change relying on themselves. They developed higher level of organisation and communication strategy – utilising what the information age offers.
The Ethiopian people have brought the regime – that regarded itself as powerful and unteachable – to its knee. They have forced the allies of the regime and their media to question the unconditional support they have been providing to the regime.
However, the Western governments are not ready to abandon the regime yet. By expressing their hope the state of emergency would be “in place for as short time as possible”, the EU and the UK have given the regime a green light.
This demonstrates these countries have not caught up with the reality on the ground. The name of the game has totally changed. The Ethiopian people are determined to take ownership of their destiny. They have already defied the newly imposed state emergency across the country. Even if, the regime enforces it through its brutal methods, it will only take the resistance of the Ethiopian people to a higher level of organisation and creativity that will bring about the inevitable collapse of the regime.
Because of the strategic location and the abundant natural resources, the Horn of Africa region has always attracted foreign interventions throughout its long history. These interventions have not only prevented the people of the region from solving their internal problems by themselves, but they have been the major causes of the problems.
The ruling regime in Ethiopia would not have been in a position to terrorise the Ethiopian people and the whole region at large, were it not for the massive unconditional support it receives from the Western countries. Therefore, the Western countries find themselves in direct conflict with the aspirations and struggles of the Ethiopian people and the region at large. These countries need to revise their present policy on the regime before it’s too late. The fact is, be it with the their life support, or without it, the regime can not hold on to power for too long.