KPFA Weekend News Anchor Sharon Sobotta: Two hundred delegates from African governments and institutions met in Kigali, Rwanda, yesterday for a symposium on “democratization and development.” The symposium was organized by the Meles Zenawi Foundation and the African Development Bank.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s successor, Hailemariam Desalegn, joined Rwandan President Paul Kagame in Kigali, where both spoke of the primacy of state power and African agency in development. Washington D.C.-based Ethiopian activist Obang Metho spoke to KPFA’s Ann Garrison about what was wrong with this picture.
Obang Metho: Thank you very much for giving me this opportunity. The whole picture is wrong. The whole picture is wrong being that Paul Kagame and then the former prime minister of Ethiopia, Meles Zenawi, these two gentlemen – we cannot talk about them and say that they can bring any new things to Africa.
Why? Because these are two men who came to power, not by the ballot, by the bullet. And if you look at it, these are people also who’ve been in power for long. Meles, he died in power. So the whole thing is wrong with the picture.
Like they were talking about development democracy. Where is the democracy? Ethiopia is a country that, in just the election they had in May this year, the government won by 100 percent.
KPFA/Ann Garrison: I remember that. They won every single seat in Parliament. Now, are you saying that both these governments are minority dictatorships: Rwanda, dictatorship by the 14 percent Tutsi minority and Ethiopian dictatorship by the 6 percent Tigrean minority?
OM: Yes, yes, in Ethiopia the 6 percent is the Tigrean ethnic group.
KPFA: It seems that the United States military partnerships with Rwanda and Ethiopia, based on Rwanda and Ethiopia’s willingness to cooperate with American forces, insulates both regimes against criticism from the West.
OM: Correct. Correct. Yeah, because if you look at it now, Obama went to Ethiopia last month. When he was in Ethiopia, the speech he gave was that Ethiopia had the top soldiers. He went there for a specific reason. He said Ehtiopia had the top soldiers.
So, in other words, instead of sending the Marines over to die in Somalie to fight Al-Shabab or to fight these which they call the terrorists, actually they send the Ethiopians there, pretty much like a contract. So, in the name of security, the Ethiopians work for the West for what they call War on Terror, but these people are actually known for terrorizing their own peoples.
So for that, the Ethiopian government, the ruling ethnic apartheid regime in Ethiopia that terrorizes their own people, they are not being criticized because they are the darling of the West. They’re pretty much that from Bush till Obama. Anything that the West will ask of them, they will do that.
And the hypocrisy, what Obama did when he went there! He called the Ethiopian government a democratically elected government. There’s no way – 100 percent – you know a group can’t win an election by 100 percent. There’s no way they can be democratic.
And then Obama called Burundi, the election there, illegitimate or not credible. Which one is that? The one that claims to win by 67 percent, or the one that claims to win 100 percent?
So my point is the Ethiopians, because of the so-called War on Terror, the regime has not been criticized in the West, not even by the media.
But in the long run, this thing will explode. So this kind of thing, where you side with a dictator and exclude the people, that will sooner or later haunt. If violence erupts in Ethiopia, and Ethiopians kill each other, that will be the legacy of Obama. There’s no doubt about it, because he’s the one who has supported this group that has isolated itself from Ethiopians.
KPFA: That was Washington D.C.-based Ethiopian activist Obang Metho.
Oakland writer Ann Garrison writes for the San Francisco Bay View, Black Agenda Report, Black Star News,Counterpunch and her own website, Ann Garrison, and produces for AfrobeatRadio on WBAI-NYC, KPFA Evening News, KPFA Flashpoints and for her own YouTube Channel, AnnieGetYourGang. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. In March 2014 she was awarded the Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza Democracy and Peace Prize for promoting peace in the Great Lakes Region of Africa through her reporting.