TPLF continues its self-serving but nationally disastrous policies

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Some quotes from the article Ethiopia – country of the silver sickle – offers land dirt cheap to farming giants

” … government officials point out that Ethiopia has vast reserves of underused land – 60m hectares of the country’s 74m hectares suitable for agriculture is not cultivated – and insist no local farmers will be adversely affected.”

If you take people’s grazing rights and access to water, they are affected.  If you allow practices that affect the environment, soil, water, if you destroy forests then they are affected.  Benefits clearly accrue to the investors and to EPRDF. Everyone else bears the costs.

The Ethiopian government makes it seem as if fifty or a hundred years from now everything will be as it were before the lease. After producing under highly mechanized, intensive farming, the land will no longer be productive.  The sizes being given away are not benign.

Is there a plan beyond selling the land that will ensure a generation from now these farmers’ children will not be landless laborers?

“There is no crop that won’t grow in Ethiopia but we cannot produce quantity and quality. Why? It’s a vicious cycle of the lack of capital and technology,” he said. “So leasing land is a real opportunity for us.”

The key word here is “us”.  Who is “us”? the TPLF elite?

Teresa Agassa, a 38-year-old man in gumboots who works a one-hectare plot, said it was good that some local people now had jobs – even if the wage was too small. But he spoke enviously of Karuturi’s tractors. “They’re only for the company’s benefit. Maybe there can also be benefits for us – but we will only know in the future.”

Why not empower these people? Help them build cooperatives? Give them favorable loans? Help them get mechanized? No, that would require actually governing and would be hard work.

Will this farmer be around next year considering his costs of production?

“People here are very poor. They would work for 1 birr…”

Why? Because God created them that way? Or is this the result of two decades of failed policies? Do these people have a choice?

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EPRDF threatens Sweden

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The following is a quote from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia, responding to concerns expressed by Sweden about press freedom in Ethiopia:

The decision of the Government of Sweden to engage Ethiopia through media polemics can only be described as thoughtless and injudicious … designed to sidetrack Ethiopia into recriminations  … [Sweden]  should recognize the danger of making such meddlesome and intrusive statements.

The Meles government is highly dependent on the Aid money it gets from Sweden and other European governments.  Yet, it puts out press releases such as these because, in the up-side-down world of Ethiopian politics, the Ethiopian government treats its own population as a hostage. Each time some Western diplomat says something publicly and annoys the ruling party, the regime tells that country that it will severely punish the Ethiopian populace if they don’t stop. In the current case for example, if the Swedish government were to persist in expressing concerns, EPRDF will proceed to interfere with (or expel) Swedish aid and humanitarian missions that had stepped in to do the work the Ethiopian government is unwilling to do (recall EPRDF expelled the Red Cross from the Ogaden a few years ago). EPRDF will continue to play these games because it can count on another country stepping in once the population has been sufficiently penalized. This way it silences any and all criticism even among its donors. The solution for ending these games is for European countries to have a united voice in addressing the regime.

Meles’s actions expose regime’s weakness

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Over the last few years, it has become clear that the only groups the Meles regime can flex its muscles on are unarmed civilians and the peaceful opposition in Ethiopia. Since 2005, the regime has successively imprisoned political leaders as a show of force to external observers and as a warning to local politicians and civil society. A case in point is that of Birtukan Mideksa, the young opposition leader who has been imprisoned illegally since December 2008 and is currently serving a life sentence. The death and life imprisonment sentences passed on several people last month over an alleged coup conspiracy is also inline with recent experience.

While the regime generously doles out life sentences on its opponents, it has also clearly demonstrated its weakness when dealing with armed resistance. In the Ogaden for example, the regime has found it difficult to defeat a small group of fighters. Frustration led the regime to undertake a campaign where food was used as a weapon against civilians in the region. The regime also expelled several aid organizations, amongst whom, had reported that the government was burning entire villages.

The regime’s Somalia debacle is also fresh in everyone’s mind.

The current global economic downturn has also created problems for the regime. The crisis has left its western sponsors with fewer means to support it and Meles knows that this condition is likely longterm. On his recent trip to Copenhagen for example, Meles personally undermined the African position in an attempt to get support for his weakening regime. His actions baffled many observers, but numerous Ethiopians had earlier warned that sending Meles to represent Africa would have serious consequences for the continent.

The regime’s accelerated sale of fertile farmland to Saudi and Indian firms is also an outgrowth of the financial and legitimacy problems the regime is facing. Waning financial support from the west and the need to satiate the ever-expanding appetite of its corrupt cadre has made it necessary to find new sponsors.  This almost-overnight reversal of a 19 year policy that prohibited local farmers from owning land shows the level of desperation the regime is in.

The regime is still trying to appear strong by muscling the opposition, but the weaknesses are clear for all who want to see closely.