Freedom House on Recent Events in Ethiopia: Racist and Condescending

by The Strathink Editorial Team

It is understandable that Freedom House, in their own words “an independent watchdog organization dedicated to the expansion of freedom and democracy around the world,” expresses its concern about the current situation in Ethiopia. What is not understandable, but rather irresponsible, is the narrative they present that attempts to explain the current situation in Ethiopia.

Freedom House’s Advocacy Manager, Annie Boyajiian, has written a factually inaccurate and contextually vapid “call to action” on two punitive U.S. Senate Resolutions on Ethiopia. Despite having worked on Capitol Hill for the Congress, Ms. Boyajiian implies that these resolutions “are an important first step in addressing the crisis in Ethiopia.” Resolutions do not have the force of the law behind them and are nonbinding. Moreover, Ethiopia’s ‘crisis’ will be resolved by Ethiopians and not micromanaged by the U.S. Congress.

If the Senate feels so strongly about a new direction in U.S. foreign policy towards Ethiopia, why not propose legislation? We can answer that question. The Senate is not proposing legislation because the U.S. government values its partnership with Ethiopia and this resolution is an empty gesture to satisfy certain Members of Congress who have the loud voices of the Ethiopian opposition in the diaspora in their ears.

Ms. Boyajiian offers three reasons why this resolution should pass: 1) tensions are worsening; 2) U.S. policy hasn’t worked; and 3) passage of resolutions provides clear direction for U.S. policy. At best her arguments are specious and reflect a fundamental lack of understanding, beginning with her first sentence. At worse, she is engaging in the same kind of hate speech being promoted by some quarters of the Ethiopian opposition. She also uses a condescending tone that reflects an underlying sense of superiority—in other words, racism.

According to Ms. Boyajiian, “Unrest began in November 2015, sparked by the government’s plan to expand the capital by seizing land from farmers in Oromia.” The Addis Ababa Integrated Master Plan was essentially a plan to incorporate parts of Oromia adjoining Addis Ababa into economic zones given the capital’s potential for future growth. Farmers dispossessed of their land were to be given fair compensation. Eminent domain is a universal concept and countries such as the United States use the right of eminent domain to take land for public use with fair compensation for the owner.

In the case of Oromia, the Master Plan was a disaster because of the lack of consultation and transparency in the process. Moreover, “the government” Ms. Boyajiian refers to is the government of Oromia—Oromos govern Oromia in a federal arrangement. The Advocacy Manager has clearly not done her homework and taken the easy route of superficiality in attempting to explain what has happened in Oromia.

Ms. Boyajiian states “…the EPRDF’s policies have fueled ethnic divisions and distributed economic wealth and political power to the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and political loyalists. What does this mean? The EPRDF is a party composed of the TPLF, the Amhara National Democratic Movement (ANDM), the Oromo People’s Democratic Organization and the Southern Ethiopian People’s Democratic Movement (SEPDM). The Prime Minister is a member of SEPDM.

What policies is she referring to in this assertion? How does the EPRDF “distribute” this power and wealth to the TPLF? To whom is this power and wealth distributed? How does the EPRDF “fuel ethnic divisions” in an ethnic federalist arrangement?

These are the same arguments used by the Ethiopian opposition in the diaspora who hope to incite violence against a particular group of people held responsible not for Ethiopia’s successes, but their failures. Since when does an advocacy group demonize an ethnic group in a country? Does Ms. Boyajiian know that Tigrayans remain the poorest Ethiopians in the country, the majority of whom live far below the poverty line? Is Freedom House willing to stand by this kind of statement despite the fact that ethnic violence against the Tigrayans is a real possibility? In several areas of the Tigrayans have fled their homes due to credible threats against them expressed by the hate speech of opposition groups.

We come to expect more rigor from a Washington, D.C. based think tank. We also expect an argument free of scapegoating and demonization of a particular ethnic group.

Ms. Boyajiian then tackles the question of U.S. policy towards Ethiopia. According to Freedom House’s Advocacy Manager, “…the State Department’s inconsistency and frequent public silence seem to embolden the EPRDF.”

Seriously?

Does Freedom House think that the Ethiopian government gets its marching orders from the U.S. State Department? Does Freedom House think that the U.S. State Department has the ability or even the political will to dictate its wishes to the Ethiopian government? Since when did Washington, D.C. decide on policies for the Ethiopian government?

The way Ms. Boyajiian writes about Ethiopia and the United States government is condescending and lacks a basic understanding of both countries. Why are there quotes around the phrases “concern about recent clashes” and “troubled” by the recent state of emergency. Is she dismissing the full effect of the U.S. State Department’s concern about recent events in Ethiopia? It is one thing for another country to express its concern, and quite another for a country to dictate policies to another sovereign state. Does she understand the distinction?

Last, Freedom House states, “The resolution [referring to the Senate Resolutions] are mild given the severity of the situation. What is missing, according to Ms. Boyajiian, is “a consistent position on the violence and how to address it; clear direction for specific actions by the executive branch; and a call for the Ethiopian government to allow a full, credible and transparent investigation…”

Is the United States inconsistent on its views concerning violence in any country? The United States routinely condemns violence, either by the state or civil society, globally and including in its own country. How can the United States address the violence in Ethiopia? Isn’t that the responsibility of the Ethiopian government or does Freedom House suggest a more robust intervention? After all, the United States has troops around the world. And hasn’t the Ethiopian government already called for an investigation of the violence?

There is nothing wrong with other governments expressing its concern, even displeasure, of the Ethiopian government’s response to recent events. What is wrong is when a government, or an organization, expresses its views based on a sloppy, ill-informed, and condescending approach to an important issue such as the recent violence in Ethiopia. Ms. Boyajiian writes that the Ethiopian government spokesperson “bragged” that the Ethiopian government did not need lobbyists. Her use of the term “bragged” shows clearly that she thinks she is addressing a recalcitrant child.

We hate to use the word racist but if the shoe fits, you must wear it.

3 Responses to “Freedom House on Recent Events in Ethiopia: Racist and Condescending”

  1. Legesse says:

    To me, it is the Ethiopian government’s weakness and sloppiness. They come to Ethiopia or to the World as human right advocates but they directly interfere the sovereign countries busyness. So whose fault is it?. We see every time protesters jumping in to the respected Ethiopian Embassies and threw the Ethiopian flag and replaced with another. What kind of diplomatic relation ship is this? Had this happened in Ethiopia to these countries Embassies, I believe they would have pulled out their Ambassadors. So what I advice the Ethiopian government is that to be democratic, take care of its people, destroy the corrupt leaders and get rid of the so called human rights watches groups. To me their spies that are working for their country which I do not blame them. They love their country and their priority is their country. So the Ethiopian government should stand for its people and its country.

  2. KA says:

    I think it is a matter of business now days it is a big market place to invest fabricate un real things,fiction against poor nations,make them un stable,to create war between political groups ,regions ,among different religious groups.First and thefinanciers ar the primary enemy .the freedom house,HRW&Amnesty international are the main players and players in three all fiction games.Look how many millions died and still dining in SYRIA,Yemen ,Lib because of the evil work of these GUGMANGUG Organizations of this century .
    Oh GOD please give us mercy !! please make them to think tell them enough,tell them to find out the reality ,give them mind and good heart to work with the governments and opposition to have a common ground with out killing millions of innocent people
    please stop making business by the name of human right .One day the blood of innocent millions will wash you out.

  3. wetar says:

    I read Ms Boyajiian’s piece. I found this an effective rebuttal to Ms Boyajiian’s preposterous claims. Indeed, a well-formed and articulated argument with questioning insights. Keep it up!

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