vlad and friend boris presents ‘Song for Sarah’ for mrs. Palin

Via Andrew Sullivan:


Meles Zenawi’s quagmire

Sound vaguely familiar?

[Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles] Zenawi’s invasion of Somalia was reckless and irresponsible. He glibly assured the world at the beginning of the invasion, “we will be out in a few weeks.” Now he realizes that the business of war is unpredictable, expensive and uncertain. After nearly two years, he has found that the Somali war has sapped the strength of his troops and depleted the limited resources of the country; and he has no diplomatic leverage over the various warring Somali elements to impose his quixotic vision of a Pax Zenawi on the Somali people which he can manipulate through a puppet client regime.

Ethiopia: Charities and Societies Proclamation

From VOA (via Nazret.com), not very encouraging news out of Ethiopia on the democratization front:

Ethiopian officials have told western diplomats that parliament will approve a proposed Charities and Societies Proclamation within weeks. The bill would give the government supervisory powers over non-governmental organizations that receive at least 10 percent foreign funding, including money from Ethiopians living abroad.

The text before lawmakers prohibits such NGOs from promoting democratic or human rights, the rights of children and the disabled, and equality of gender or religion. Violators could face up to 15 years in prison and fines up to $10,000.

Sure, the Ethiopian government has every right to promulgate reasonable regulations for NGOs operating within the country.  But I cannot see any justification for these restrictions.  

Meles Zenawi’s government says that NGOs are still welcome in Ethiopia, but with conditions:

A senior adviser to the prime minister, Bereket Simon, says NGOs will still be welcome to help fight poverty. But he says the bill is designed to prevent foreign interference in the country’s political affairs. “We need foreign NGOs to participate in poverty alleviation programs and to participate in development works, but we definitely believe the political realm must be left for Ethiopians. That is the prerogative of Ethiopians.”

But funding is not necessarily tantamount to control, and certainly not when the threshold of foreign funding that would subject NGOs to these restrictions is just 10 percent.  And if the rationale is to leave the political realm for Ethiopians, why subject NGO to these restrictions if they receive funds from Ethiopians in the diaspora? 

When all else fails, play the “terrorist” card:

Bereket says the law is aimed partly at what he described as ‘NGOs collaborating with terrorist organizations’. He declined to elaborate.

Emerging democracies like Ethiopia should be doing everything they can to promote the development of a strong and independent civil society – not one dominated by the state.

Here’s the recent statement by Human Rights Watch on the proposed legislation:

The Charities and Societies Proclamation (CSO law) would provide the government a potent tool to intimidate and weaken Ethiopia’s long beleaguered civil society. Although the bill has been revised twice since May 2008, the current version retains many of the most alarming provisions.  
“The only reason to have such a repressive law is if it would be used to strangle Ethiopia’s few remaining independent voices,” said Georgette Gagnon, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “Donor governments should make clear to Ethiopia that enacting this law will threaten future funding.” 

Ethiopia: $265 million needed for worsening drought

From the AP:

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AP) — An Ethiopian minister says his country urgently needs US$265 million to feed 6.4 million people affected by drought.

State Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Mitiku Kassa says Ethiopia needs US$225.9 million to buy food through December. The rest of the money is needed to buy seeds, provide training and toilets, among other things, says Mitiku.

The minister disputes a figure the U.N. food agency released in September stating 9.6 million people are affected by the drought.

Mitiku says experts believe November’s harvest will be plentiful and put an end to the crisis.

Agriculture is Ethiopia’s main economic activity. The country has a long and troubled history with drought and hunger.

ADDING: A story in the African Monitor expands on this report:

The minister… has calculated the number of beneficiaries requiring relief food assistance to be 4.6 million (which previously was 2.2 million), the majority of whom being in Somali, Oromiya, and the SNNP regions together amounting to 76 percent.

The state minister attributed the escalating number of the needy to the failure of the Belg seasonal rains in many parts of these areas “compounded by the global increase in food items”, adding that the global competition for aid resources are boosting while “resources are becoming more and more scarce” although humanitarian did not cease to be delivered.

It has been troubling watching the government of Meles Zenawi, over the past several months, downplay the severity of the food shortage – presumably to protect its image.  Hopefully the government will now confront this crisis head on.

Donate to UNICEF.